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PrtMtedh R. & R. Clark, EdiMbw^h. 




Art and Science 36 

Theory and Practice 65 

Realistic Theory 105 

Artistic Opinion 142 

Taste 180 





Poetry and Painting . 



Statuary — Architecture — Music 



Art and Nature . 



The term Fine Art, with its equivalents in other 
languages, is used in a loose and uncertain manner. 
Generally, unless the context shows that it must 
have a wider meaning, it is taken to mean the arts 
of painting and sculpture alone. This use of the 
term, moreover, is found, not only in ordinary lan- 
guage, where words are employed carelessly, but 
even in formal definitions. There is, for instance, 
an essay by Guizot called " Les Limites qui s^parent 
et les Liens qui unissent Les Beaux Arts," which 
treats exclusively of painting, drawing, and the 
kindred arts. The Slade Professor of Fine Art in 
our universities, in like manner, is a professor of 
painting. Nevertheless, this limited use of the term 
is not the definition given in dictionaries and ency- 
clopaedias. Littr^'s list is painting, sculpture, music, 
architecture, poetry, and eloquence, with dancing as 
a subsidiary art This is the usual list, though many 

authorities omit dancing and eloquence, and some 



add landscape-gardening, or acting, or some other 
minor art We may for the present drop all ques- 
tion about the propriety of these additions, and 
consider only whether music and poetry should be 
included. They differ greatly in several respects 
from the other arts, and many propositions which 
are plausible about painting, sculpture, and archi- 
tecture, are manifestly untrue of them. A brief 
history of the term Fine Art will best show that 
Littr6 was justified, and that neither poetry nor 
music can be excluded. 

There were founded in Paris in the seventeenth 
century certain academies, one of which was a school 
of painting and sculpture. To this was afterwards 
added an academy of architecture. In the year 
1793 an ficole des Beaux Arts took the place of 
these academies. This term was adopted when 
subsequently the Institut was established, and music 
was then formally recognised as one of the Fine 
Arts, being incorporated in the Acad6mie des Beaux 
Arts. Poetry, however, does not belong to the 
Acad^mie des Beaux Arts, and this seems to have 
perplexed some French authors. In the Diction- 
naire of the Acad6mie a doubt is expressed whether 
poetry ought to be called a Fine Art The proof 
that it must be so called is to be found in the 
Riflexions critiques sur la Po^sie et sur la Peinture 


of the Abb6 Dubos, which were published early in 
the eighteenth century, for these show that the simi- 
larity which was seen to exist between poetry and 
painting had produced a feeling of respect for the 
latter, and that the term Fine Art, as well as the 
word artist in the modem sense, came into use 
owing to this feeling. Our word "artist," it may 
be observed, has had three meanings. First, it was 
a University technicality, applied to those who took 
a degree in the Faculty of Arts. Next, it was, as 
in the works of Johnson, an equivalent of artisan or 
artificer. Thirdly, it became, as it now is, the de- 
signation of an artisan of the Fine Arts. The terms 
Beaux Arts and Artiste had not come into fashion 
when Dubos composed his essays, and he explains 
to the reader that he is reluctant to call the poet 
and the painter artisans. He begs him therefore to 
understand that though they are so called, a com- 
plimentary epithet of some kind must be always 
understood in connexion with the term, which is 
omitted solely because an incessant repetition of it 
would be awkward and inconvenient. This was the 
sentiment which led to the introduction of the term 
Beaux Arts. It is, therefore, incumbent on those 
who deny that the arts of poetry and painting re- 
semble one another to show that they attach some 
meaning to the term Fine Art, if they employ it. 


A writer may, if he pleases, ignore the term alto- 
gether, taking for granted that it has no meaning, 
as Johnson did, but, if used, it should either be 
allowed to retain its historical meaning, or be de- 
fined intelligibly in some other way. Johnson wrote 
essays on some of the arts, but did not class them 
together as having a common characteristic, and did 
not use the term Fine Art A writer who takes up 
this position may be right or wrong, but cannot be 
convicted of inconsistency. It is different if the 
term is admitted. The reader is at the author's 
mercy if a term is used which may mean anything 
or nothing, and there are no means by which it can 
be ascertained whether his opinions hold together or 
not. The argument about the nature of the Fine 
Arts must be in part verbal, in order that it may 
not be purely dogmatical. It is easy, and it has 
been usual, to begin discussions of this kind with 
affirmations, more or less direct, about the proper 
functions of the Fine Arts. Some have said that 
they ought to refine, some that they ought to in- 
struct, some that they ought to amuse. But it is 
useless to beg the question in this way. There is 
only one " ought " which should be allowed to find 
its way into such discussions : that is the " ought " 
which belongs to logic and common sense. Words 
ought not to be employed which mean nothing, or 


employed in different senses in different places, and 
propositions ought not to be laid down as certain 
which many reasonable persons would deny to be 
true. As, therefore, the term Fine Art comes from 
France, and its history can be traced there, the first 
point to be established is that French authority 
justifies Littr6, and that there is no significance in 
the fact that the Acad^mie des Beaux Arts does not 
take in poetry. This was a natural result of the 
fact that it is a part of literature, and, as such, had 
found a place elsewhere when this Acad^mie was 
formed. There can be little doubt that Dubos was 
the true author of the term, though he did not in- 
vent it His essays were greatly admired, and 
went through several editions. The fourth was 
published in 1740, and about twenty years after- 
wards appeared the Traits de Peinture of Dandr^ 
Bardon, in which the terms Beaux Arts and Artiste 
are used as well-known words. But their full mean- 
ing, as now understood, was not established so long 
as it was doubtful whether music is a Fine Art 
This was not admitted when Dubos wrote. He 
added an essay on music, but did not treat it as an 
art which has a locus standi apart from other things. 
It was regarded at that time in France, as elsewhere, 
as an art which is valuable in conjunction with reli- 
gious ceremonies and dramatic performances, but 


was not supposed to be able to stand alone. Lulli 
was, in the eyes of Dubos, the prince of musical 
composers, and the popular estimate of music was 
still in France that which Lulli's compositions had 
determined. Dubos, ignorant that a star of the first 
magnitude, John Sebastian Bach, in whose presence 
Lulli was destined to pale his ineffectual fires, had 
appeared, declares that Frenchmen and Italians alone 
have a taste for music, and that the colder races of 
the north are for ever disqualified to enjoy it This 
error had been dispelled at the end of the century, 
and it was understood that the kingdom of music is 
a wider one and her dignity higher than was sup- 
posed. When this secret was disclosed she became 
a Fine Art, and was admitted to a place in the 
Acad^mie des Beaux Arts. French authority, there- 
fore, fully supports the view that poetry stands at 
the head of the list, and that music cannot be ex- 
cluded. The name was invented because poetry and 
painting were admitted to be sisters, and music was 
added when it was found that she belonged to the 
family. We can, therefore, trace the history of the 
Fine Arts to a remoter origin. The essays of Dubos 
were suggested by the metrical treatise on the art of 
painting of Dufresnoy. This treatise, which was 
celebrated throughout Europe, was itself a new ver- 
sion of the Ars Poetka of Horace, and Horace is the 


first author of the classification of the Fine Arts. 
Lessing, trusting, I suppose, to a statement which 
Plutarch makes, affirmed that Simonides first called 
poetry "vocal painting," and painting " silent poetry," 
but did not explain who this Simonides was, and, 
indeed, apparently thought that only one writer of 
this name was known. Plutarch, having said else- 
where that it was a popular formula, is not trust- 
wortby, and, so far as is known, Horace has the best 
claim to be considered the inventor of the now cele- 
brated and familiar parallel between these two arts. 
But the three essays of Horace, Dufresnoy, and 
Dubos are very diflferent. The first assigned the 
prior place to poetry, and illustrated his argument 
by a reference to painting ; the second wrote on 
painting and scarcely touched on literature ; the 
third balanced the two arts and treated them as 
equals. Hence arose the need of the term Fine 
Art, which admitted painting to be a kind of silent 
poetry. But music had not then asserted her rights, 
and musicians alone knew that she was the equal of 
poetry and painting. 

The ancient Greeks did not speculate about the 
nature of the Fine Arts, and had no name for them. 
The notion or conception of Fine Art is derived 
from Roman, not Greek, civilisation. This will, 
perhaps, seem a paradox. Lessing has had great 


influence on opinion, and is supposed to have greatly 
improved on Winckelman, not only by correcting 
him as to some of his facts, but by cleverly advo- 
cating with a great display of learning a view which 
better pleases modem writers on art. There are, 
however, two things which Lessing should have ex- 
plained, and which those who believe in him should 
explain. It should be explained why he, and writers 
like him, constantly require the term Fine Art, 
though no Greek author experienced this necessity, 
and why it never occurred to any Greek author to 
institute a comparison between poetry and painting 
and statuary like that which is the theme of the 
Laocoon. It will be allowed that if there is any- 
where in ancient Greek literature a speculation about 
the Fine Arts, this exception is Aristotle's Poetic. 
In this fragment, for it is unfortunately only a frag- 
ment, something is said about music, and there is 
even a brief notice of the art of painting ; but these 
additions to the discussion of the drama, which is 
the chief topic, only serve to make more striking the 
total omission of statuary, the great art of ancient 
Greece. The faith of Lessing's disciples must be 
indeed robust if they venture to say that he was a 
greater philosopher than Aristotle, or knew more 
about the sentiments and opinions of the citizens of 
Athens. Though the Poetic Art is not complete. 


the plan seems to have been matured, but not a hint 
IS to be found in it that Aristotle proposed to in- 
vestigate the nature of statuary. Either he was 
unintelligent and inobservant, or Lessing's insight 
was not so perfect as he and his admirers have sup- 
posed. Plato, however, rather than Aristotle, is 
thought to be the great authority in matters of this 
kind ; and it is true that if the reader chooses to put 
on modem spectacles when he explores his dialogues, 
some passages may be found which seem to support 
the view that the Greeks admitted a distinction 
between the Fine Arts and the Useful Arts. Such 
a distinction was arising undoubtedly, but it had not 
reached, as Lessing assumed, the stage in which it 
becomes formal and explicit. There was a difference 
of opinion, but the two factions were imperfectly 
conscious of the difference, about the nature of all 
the arts except poetry. Plato's opinion may, per- 
haps, not have been quite fixed, but he certainly did 
not recognise a distinct class of arts, such as are now 
called Fine Arts. The following words, which are 
taken from Professor Jowett's edition, occur in the 
Laws : — ^^ And that art sprang up after these and out 
of these (/>. Nature and Chance), mortal and of 
mortal birth, and produced in play certain images 
and very partial imitations of the truth, having an 
affinity to one another, such as music and painting 



create, and their companion arts. And there are 
other arts which have a serious purpose, and these 
co-operate with nature, such, for example, as medicine 
and husbandry and gymnastic." Undoubtedly, if 
there were no other passages which clear up Plato's 
meaning, these words might be understood as a 
division of the arts into Useful and Fine Arts ; but 
there are other passages which show that this was 
not his meaning. The following is an extract from 
the Republic : — " Then will the city have to fill and 
swell with a multitude of callings which go beyond 
what is required by any natural want, such as the 
whole tribe of hunters and actors, of which one large 
class have to do with figures and colours, another 
are musicians, and there will be poets and their 
attendant train of rhapsodists, players, dancers, con- 
tractors, also makers of divers kinds of utensils, not 
forgetting women's ornaments." This shows that 
Plato was not setting aside certain arts as "fine" 
or admirable arts, but as trivial and comparatively 
worthless arts. The distinction is such as Johnson 
would have recognised, but is not such as constitutes 
a peculiar class requiring a peculiar epithet. The 
reason why the Greeks did not regard the Fine Arts 
as a special class, about which it was necessary to 
form a theory, was that on the one hand music had 
not attained to such a stage of development as to 


reveal its full character, and on the other, statuary, 
which was the chief art, was regarded as a part of 
the religion of the country. There is some doubt 
about the nature of ancient music, but the most com- 
petent judges agree in thinking that it could not 
have made great progress before keyed instruments 
were invented. It is at any rate certain that when 
Plato wrote it was in an elementary stage, and was 
still regarded as a novelty. The habit of taking for 
granted that modem sentiment about the Fine Arts 
was anticipated in ancient Greece, and the desire of 
glorifying music by classical testimony, has induced 
some modern writers to cite Plato's theories as if 
these proved that he attached extraordinary value to 
it He is supposed to have thought that it was at 
once a Fine Art and something more than a Fine 
Art The truth is that he perceived that many of 
his contemporaries were beginning to esteem it as 
such, that is, as an art which deserved to be culti- 
vated for its own sake, without any question of 
utility, and was perplexed and angered at this 
strange phenomenon. He knew that in the early 
history of his country there had only been two 
forms of music ; the lyre which served as an accom- 
paniment to the recitations of the bard, and the pipe 
which marked the time of the rustic dance, and he 
thought that the growing tendency to allow greater 


importance to music was a sign and would be a 
cause of mischief. Experience has now completely 
proved that no poison lurks hidden in a concord of 
sweet sounds. The modem writer has before him 
Jewish as well as European history, and it is, 
perhaps, not easy to imagine the feelings of a philo- 
sopher to whom the power of music revealed itself 
for the first time. But this was the case with Plato, 
and it is not strange that his suspicions should have 
been excited, and that he should have wished to 
check a taste which seemed to him unnatural and 
odious. But his mistake was that he underrated, 
not that he overrated, the power of sound. He saw 
that it had a mysterious influence, but was ignorant 
that this influence was too potent for his purpose, 
and that music would not condescend to be an im- 
plement in the hands of a pedagogue or temperance- 
lecturer. The argument is singularly perverted when 
Plato is cited in honour of music, for he strenuously 
denied its legitimacy as a Fine Art, or as an art 
cultivated for its pwn sake. Three different opinions 
may be found in ancient Greek literature about the 
advance of this art Plato fought against it. Aris- 
totle in the last book of the Politics brings the dry 
light of a scientific inquirer, who allows no prejudice 
to interfere, to bear on it He observes that now 
many persons regard music as an art of which the 


end is to give pleasure, but that this was not the 
view which prevailed when it was admitted to a 
place in a scheme of education. He discusses it at 
some length, and allowing that it may be useful in 
education, in deference, apparently, rather to Plato's 
authority, than because he was convinced, winds up 
by saying that it has a cathartic quality. He pro- 
mises a fuller explanation of this catharsis in the 
Poetic Art, but though the word reappears there, the 
full explanation is not given. Both in this phrase 
of Aristotle's, and in Plato's words about a playful 
imitation, there seems to be a kind of anticipation of 
the theory which Mr. Herbert Spencer has put at 
greater length and connected with physiology. The 
sentiments of Euripides contrast signally with Plato's 
about this change, which had been gradually taking 
place since the severance of music and poetry from 
each other. Euripides had the feelings of an artist, 
and was delighted with the innovation which shocked 
Plato. The following lines in the Medea show how 
he regarded it : — 

(TKaiOVS §€ AcyWV KOvScV Tt 0'0</>Ol»S 

Tovs TrpocrOe Pporovs ovk av afidfrroLS, 
otTLV€s vfivovs iirl fiev OaXiais 
kiri T eiXairivais koX irapa deiwvoLS 
€vpovTO piov T€pf7rvas (XKoas, 
crrvyiovs Se fiporwiv ovScts Awas 

€Vp€TO puOXKTQ KoX TTokyKOpSoiS 


(^Sats Travctv, €^ &v Odvaroi 
SiLvai T TvxO'f' <r<l>a\Xjov(rt Sofiovs, 
KaiTot raSe fiev KcpBos aKCurOai 
ILoXiraicri Pporovs. "Iva 8* evSeiirvoi 
SatTCS Tt fioLTqv T€LVovcri l^odv ; 
TO irapov yap €\€i rkp^iv d(f> avrov 
SaiTos 7rX.rjp(ofia j^porouriv, 

{Medea, L. 190, etc.) 

" Truly, you may say that mankind were formerly 
obtuse and unintelligent. For they introduced songs 
at their feasts and banquets, to add to the delights of 
life ; but it occurred to no one to assuage with melody 
and the sound of stringed instruments the troubles 
and miseries of existence, whence death and ruin 
proceed. Yet, if music can heal these, it is indeed a 
gain. What needs the luxurious banquet such super- 
fluous aid ? Its own appropriate pleasures are suffi- 
cient for the feast." Even Euripides treats music as 
a kind of mental medicine to be applied in certain 
cases, resembling Plato in this, and does not write of 
it quite in the modern vein. 

Plato's objection to music was not simply caused 
by reluctance to admit a novelty. It was part of a 
sentiment which may be observed in different forms 
in all civilised races, and his protest was repeated, 
though with a difference, in the early ages of modern 
Europe. Music was a part of the religious cere- 
monial of the Christian Church, and was assiduously 


cultivated. The ecclesiastics were startled after a 
time at finding that it was ceasing to be a useful art, 
and was asserting its prerogative as an independent 
art They saw that a carnal delight was felt, where, 
in their opinion, such delight was improper, and they 
attempted, as Plato had done, to check this insidious 
advance, and to confine it to its proper sphere. A 
comparison of a passage in Burney's History of Music 
with one in the Republic of Plato will show how 
exactly history was repeating itself " These (essays 
of simultaneous harmony) were censured at first as 
innovations, and while the new art of counterpoint 
was extending its limits and forming its code from 
new combinations of sounds, great scandal was given 
to piety, simplicity, and ancient usage, and complaints 
having been made to Pope John XXII. that, etc. 
etc., a bull was issued at Avignon by the advice of 
the conclave about the year 1322 to suppress these 
licenses under severe penalties." (Bumey, Hist of 
MusiCy vol. ii., p. 149, ed. 1783.) The following ex- 
tract from Plato's Republic will show that he had seen, 
as the ecclesiastics saw, that the line must be drawn and 
the battle fought where melody becomes harmony]: — 
" Then we shall not maintain the artificers of lyres 
with three comers and complex scales, or of any 
other many - stringed curiously - harmonised instru- 
ments ? Certainly not 


" But what do you say to flute-makers and flute- 
players ? Would you admit them when you reflect 


that in this composite use of harmony the flute is 
worse than all the stringed instruments put together, 
for even the pan-harmonic music is only an imitation 
of the flute ? Clearly not. 

" There remain then only the lyre and the harp 
for use in the city, and you may have a pipe in the 
country." {Republic. Dialogues of PlatOy Jowett, 
vol. ii., p. 225.) 

The art of music continued to advance in spite 
of the obstacles which prejudice interposed, and a 
national school might have been formed in this 
country if the puritanical cataclysm of the seven- 
teenth century had not swept away all traditional 
knowledge when the goal was almost reached. But 
a void was then created in which only an occasional 
amateur like Pepys can be discerned, and the history 
of music would be, during the latter part of the 
century almost a blank, in spite of Charles the 
Second's patronage, were it not for the great name 
of Purcell. The genius of Purcell, however, perhaps 
because he was in advance of the age, did not create 
a national taste, and music ultimately reappeared as 
an exotic. When this happened, once more, and for 
the last time, a cry was raised that the art of music 
ought not to be tolerated. Superficially, the attack 


took the shape of a protest against foreigners ; but 
there was a profounder prejudice in the background, 
as will be seen in the following passages : — ^** Letters 
from the Haymarket inform us that on Saturday- 
night last the opera of Pyrrkus and Demetrius was 
performed with great applause. This intelligence is 
not very acceptable to us friends of the theatre ; for 
the stage being an entertainment of the reason and 
all the faculties, this way of being pleased with the 
suspense of them for hours together, and being given 
up to the shallow satisfaction of the eyes and ears 
only, seems to arise rather from the degeneracy of 
our understanding than an improvement of our 
diversions. That the understanding has no part in 
the pleasure is evident from what these letters very 
positively assert : to wit, that a great part of the 
performance was done in Italian." {Tatler, No. 4.) 
Here the objection to music appears in its modem 
shape. It is unintellectual, and therefore despicable. 
Some letters were published in the Spectator which 
show how great a change of opinion has taken place 
since the beginning of the eighteenth century. 
Certain musicians who were trying to arrange some 
concerts made the following appeal to Addison : — 
"We whose names are subscribed think you the 
properest person to signify what we have to offer the 
town in behalf of ourselves, and the art we profess — 



music. We conceive hopes of your favour from the 
speculations on the mistakes which the town run into 
with regard to their pleasure of this kind, and believ- 
ing your method of judging is that you consider 
music only valuable as it is agreeable to, and 
heightens the purpose of poetry, we consent that 
that is not only the true way of relishing that plea- 
sure, but also that without it a composure of music 
is the same thing as a poem, when all the rules of 
poetical numbers are observed, but the words have 
no sense or meaning ; to say it shorter, mere musical 
sounds are in our art no other than nonsense verses 
are in poetry. Music, therefore, is to aggravate 
what is intended by poetry. It must always have 
some passion or sentiment to express, or else violins, 
voices, or any other organs of sound, afford an enter- 
tainment very little above the ratties of children." 
(Spectator, No. 258.) 

It must have been greatly against their will that 
these unfortunate musicians signed this confession 
of faith, and it appears from another letter that they 
did not well understand why it was required of 
them. But they submitted in order to obtain 
Addison's patronage. There was soon to appear a 
mighty champion whose genius would make such 
tyranny impossible. Handel did for this country 
what Bach did for continental Europe. He estab- 


lished for ever the right of instrumental music to 
rank as a Fine Art, and silenced unmusical critics 
who held that music is only " to aggravate what is 
intended by poetry." Handel's compositions — those 
at least which made his reputation — were, it is true, 
accompanied by words ; but no one who had heard 
them could continue to assert that the musical 
element is subordinate to the literary. No one — 
least of all, musicians — said at the end of the 
century that " violins, voices, or any other organs of 
sound afford an entertainment very little above the 
rattles of children." The concertos of Haydn 
completed the work which Handel's compositions 
had begun ; but these would not have obtained a 
hearing if the arbiters of taste had not been put to 
silence by Handel's success. There is abundant 
evidence in the literature of the last century of the 
effect produced on popular opinion by the latter. 
An anecdote which is recorded of Pope is one of 
the most curious. Having attended a performance 
of some music by Handel, and having been struck 
by the enthusiastic admiration which it seemed to 
excite in the audience, he asked Arbuthnot whether 
he thought that this apparent admiration was 
genuine, or whether it was not a piece of affectation. 
It is remarkable that a scholar like Pope, who knew 
what Shakespeare had said of music, should have 


seriously suggested this, but it illustrates a universal 
tendency. Mankind will generally fall back on the* 
most far-fetched explanations, rather than admit that 
there can be in others tastes and perceptions which 
they do not find in themselves. Others besides 
Pope have propounded this ridiculous theory, though 
no one has ever attempted to show how such 
a gigantic conspiracy could be first organised, or 
why composers should first invent, executants 
practise, and auditors applaud, combinations of 
sound which really charmed none of them. 

The dispute about the nature and legitimacy of 
music has now been practically settled. There are 
many who are insensible to its charms, but they do 
not any longer dare openly to protest They are 
content to turn aside and, repeating in a whisper 
Byrom's famous sneer that it is strange such differ- 
ence can be twixt tweedledum and tweedledee, 
allow that the difference exists. But a similar 
dispute still exists about the nature of painting, and 
the point has never been decided because it has 
been concealed under a cloud of words, and the 
battle has not been fought openly. It is admitted 
now that the pleasure which the lover of music feels 
is not a purely intellectual pleasure, and it is ad- 
mitted that it is not necessarily for that reason a 
contemptible pleasure. But innumerable essayists 


have endeavoured to demonstrate that the pleasure 
which the art of painting affords is of a purely 
intellectual kind, or would be, if the art were rightly 
understood and practised. When in the middle of 
last century the practice of collecting and exhibiting 
pictures first called the attention of those who take 
no real interest in this art to the fact that the taste 
exists, a protest of an exactly similar kind was 
made. Goldsmith wrote as follows : " It is true, 
painting should have due encouragement, as the 
painter can undoubtedly fit up our apartments in a 
much more elegant manner than the upholsterer. 
But I should think a man of fashion makes but an 
indifferent exchange who lays out all that time in 
furnishing his house which he should have employed 
in the furniture of his head. A person who shows 
no other symptoms of his taste than his cabinet or 
gallery, might as well boast to one of the furniture 
of his kitchen. I know no other motive but vanity 
that induces the great to testify such an inordinate 
passion for pictures. After the piece is bought 
and gazed at eight or ten days successively, the 
purchaser's pleasure must surely be over." {Letters 
of a Citizen of the Worlds xxxiv. " The present 
ridiculous passion of the Nobility for Painting.") If 
all mankind spoke as honestly as Goldsmith, some 
such sentiments as these would be often heard, but 


" Fine Art " is now fashionable, and it is understood 
that they must be suppressed. An escape from the 
necessity of a frank avowal of indifference is pos- 
sible in the case of pictorial art, though impossible 
in the case of music, because the former is, though 
the latter is not, an art of representation. There 
are some few instances in musical compositions, in 
which sounds are imitated. There is a piece by 
Handel in which the rhythm is supposed to repre- 
sent the sound of a hail-storm. In some operas 
there are more less direct imitations of the roar of 
the wind and the rattle of thunder. It has been 
said that the sounds of a farmyard are imitated by 
Beethoven in the ** Pastoral Symphony." These few 
and partial exceptions prove that music is not an 
art of representation in the sense in which painting 
is. No one could say of these instances that the 
music is bad because the similarity is not great, 
though it might be said that it is bad because the 
similarity is excessive. But in painting the case is 
reversed. It is always possible to point to a tree, 
an animal, or a group of objects, and say that the 
picture is bad because the imitation is imperfect, 
and it is impossible to contend that the picture is 
bad because the resemblance is too perfect It is 
owing to this fact that the Fine Arts are some of 
them arts of representation, while some are non- 



representant arts, that painting monopolises so fre- 
quently the term Fine Art. Statuary and poetry 
are also arts of representation ; but the former of 
these attracts comparatively little attention at the 
present day, while the latter, as a part of literature, 
and the common property of all educated men, 
stands apart Any grossly false statement about 
the nature of poetry would be immediately detected, 
and essayists on Fine Art, who propound untenable 
theories, are obliged to avoid it. Thus practically 
they confine their arguments to painting alone, and 
disguise in rhetorical phraseology inconsistent posi- 
tions. The non -representant arts are music and 
architecture. All authority is in favour of the 
admission of these to the list of Fine Arts. But if 
they are admitted, the presumption is that the per- 
fection of representation cannot be the test of 
excellence in any of the arts. It is, moreover, 
obvious that this test would not be admitted in 
poetry. The representation which Thucydides gives 
of a part of the history of Greece is more exact 
and more complete than the representations which 
iEschylus gives of another part. If such a test were 
valid in Fine Art, Thucydides should be the greater 
poet of the two. 

The Fine Arts have everywhere been developed 
in subservience to the three chief interests of primi- 


tive races — religion, war, and festivity. Statuary is 
the art whose history can be most clearly traced, 
and its development is most closely connected with 
the religious sentiment The author of the Wisdom 
of Solomofty wishing to maintain the view that the 
true faith was once universal, offered a theory of the 
growth of superstition which later theologians ac- 
cepted and expanded. Statues or images, he said, 
first suggested the notion of false gods. "The 
devising of idols was the beginning of spiritual 
fornication, and the invention of them the corrup- 
tion of life. . . . For by the vain glory of men they 
entered into the world, and therefore shall they 
shortly come to an end. For a father afflicted with 
untimely mourning, when he hath made an image 
of his child, soon taken away, now honoured him as 
a god, which was then a dead man, and delivered to 
those that were under him ceremonies and sacrifices. 
Thus in process of time an ungodly custom grown 
strong was kept as a law, and graven images were 
worshipped by the commandments of kings. Whom 
men could not honour in presence, because they 
dwelt far off*, they took the counterfeit of his visage 
from far, and made an express image of a king 
whom they honoured, to the end that by this their 
forwardness they might flatter him that was absent 
as if he were present Also the singular diligence 


of the artificer did help to set forward the ignorant 
to more superstition. For he, peradventure, willing to 
please one in authority, forced all his skill to make 
the resemblance of the best fashion. And so the 
multitude, allured by the grace of the work, took 
him now for a god which a little before was but 
honoured as a man." Enough is known of the 
archaeology of Greece and other countries to make 
it certain that this account of the connexion between 
images and religion is unhistorical. The earliest 
representations of the Deities were shapeless blocks 
and masses of stone or other material, and Greek 
mythology was the parent, not the offspring, of 
Greek statuary. The statues were, as is said in the 
passage quoted, made in honour of absent potentates ; 
but these potentates were dwellers in Olympus, and 
not human beings. It is untrue of all the Fine Arts 
that " by the vain glory of men they entered into 
the world," though, as will be subsequently shown, 
Alison adopted this theory, and ingeniously twisted 
the facts to make them suit his argument They all 
of them, after the most rudimentary stage was 
passed, were fashioned and developed as aids to war, 
religion, and festivity, and religion has been in 
every case the chief motive influence. The earliest 
buildings of architectural value are in all countries 
the temples. The early pictures of the Renaissance 


were of a devotional kind. The music of the Jewish 
race was part of their religion, and musical recitations 
were instituted in Greece in honour of the gods. 
But the art of making statues retained longer than 
any of the other arts this close alliance with religion, 
and religious sentiment was in ancient Greece never 
completely lost in the art of statuary. Lessing 
shut his eyes to this truth, and his misrepresentation 
of Greek feeling has misled innumerable subsequent 
writers. The reason why Aristotle did not regard 
the art of statuary as a Fine Art was that it seemed 
to him a part of religion. It was only when the 
Romans invaded Greece and found these works, 
which had no religious significance for them, that 
the unaccountable beauty of the Greek statues gave 
the formal and explicit conception of art for the 
sake of art. It is a most remarkable fact that even 
the spoliations of the Eomans did not fully reveal 
this to the inhabitants of Greece. The proof of 
this is to be found in the narrative of Pausanias. 
Pausanias, it has been said, was exceedingly prosaic, 
and it has been thought that a writer of a different 
temperament might, if he had undertaken the task 
which Pausanias undertook, have left a description 
of Greek art more in accordance with modem views. 
The fact is that the modern art-sentiment cannot be 
discovered in any Greek writer. Lucian was in 


most respects the very antithesis of Pausanias. He 
was as irreligious and incredulous as Pausanias was 
credulous and devout; but though he writes from an 
exactly opposite point of view, and though he has 
described some of the celebrated statues, he is, like 
Pausanias, not an art-critic. Whatever may be said 
of the prosaic character of the latter, it must be 
allowed that he was observant of facts which came 
before him. It is certain that if he had found that 
anywhere in Greece weight was allowed to the 
artistic question, as it would now be called : that 
some statues were held in honour on account of 
their superior beauty, and others neglected on the 
ground that they were inartistic ; he would have 
been horrified at what would have seemed to him a 
profane tendency which might have disastrous results 
on the fortunes of Greece. But it does not appear 
that he anywhere found this tendency. It does not 
seem that any of the Greeks with whom he con- 
versed looked at the statues in any light except as a 
part of the history and religion of the country. His 
sentiments are clearly shown in his account of the 
statues of the victors in athletic contests, where, if 
anywhere, we might expect to find the artistic 
question. He says that there is reason to think 
that the prizes were not always fairly awarded. He 
therefore intentionally omits all notice of those with 


regard to which such a suspicion was possible. 
How trivial and inadequate such a reason as this 
would seem to a modern art-critic ! Yet there is no 
reason to think that any Greek would have regarded 
it as unsatisfactory. But to the Roman invaders 
the splendid display of Greek art — the temples, the 
poems and plays, the pictures and statues — was a 
novel and inexplicable phenomenon, which captivated 
the attention and suggested the notion of art for the 
sake of art. The Roman did not trouble himself to 
ask whether the victor in the games had or not won 
his prize fairly, or whether the god whose image was 
carried away would or not be angered. Pausanias 
comforts himself with thinking that the disease of 
which Sulla died was a sign of divine vengeance ; 
but Roman scepticism was proof against such super- 
stition. To the Roman the Greek statue was a 
statue, and it was nothing more. 

There are other subdivisions of the Fine Arts 
besides the subdivision into representant and non- 
representant art There is one which is in truth a 
superficial division which vanishes when the nature 
of these arts is fully explored, but which, as it is 
the most popular, cannot be ignored. Three of the 
arts, viz., painting, statuary, and architecture, are 
arts which belong to the sense of sight It is rather 
a defect in language that there is no name for these 


three to distinguish them from poetry and music. 
A great many attempts have been made, both in 
this and in other countries, to utilise the word 
"plastic" as a name for this class. But these 
attempts have failed and are doomed to fail. The 
word " plastic " suggests forms without colour, and 
is thus an inappropriate name for painting, and is 
hardly suitable even for architecture and statuary, 
inasmuch as it is frequently used in the still more 
limited sense of modelling in a soft material. French 
writers at present seem to have agreed to use the 
term Arts du Dessin for these three; but it is only a 
technical expression, and many Frenchmen would be 
as much puzzled if told that architecture is an art du 
dessin as an Englishman would be if told that it is an 
art of drawing. They may, perhaps, be called the 
visual arts. Otherwise we must fall back on Virgil's 
classification of the mute and the vocal arts. Virgil, 
however, it must be remembered, was not discuss- 
ing the Fine Arts, and his mutcB artes included many 
besides painting, statuary, and architecture. In 
the next place, there is the distinction between 
poetry on the one hand, the Fine Art of the under- 
standing, and the other four, which have a special 
connexion with the senses. Lastly, there is a 
distinction which is not at first obvious, but which 
is not unimportant, between architecture and the 


other Fine Arts. Alone of these arts, architecture 
is primarily a physically-useful art The poet, the 
painter, the sculptor, and the musician, address them- 
selves in the first instance directly to the mental 
feelings. The first poems, pictures, statues, and 
musical compositions were not intended to produce 
any physical satisfaction. But the first and im- 
mediate end of a building is always to shelter the 
occupant from the physical discomfort of cold and 
heat and wet The art is then developed in three 
directions, and buildings may be roughly classified 
under the three heads of castles or fortified structures, 
representing war ; temples or churches, representing 
religion ; and mansions or palaces, representing 
festivity. But fundamentally, architecture is a use- 
ful art in the strict sense of the term, differing in 
this respect from its sister arts. There is, there- 
fore, a reason why, in the controversy about the 
nature of the Fine Arts, this art as well as poetry 
should have escaped. The questions whether a 
particular building is beautiful, and whether it is 
convenient, are so plainly distinct that they cannot 
be confounded. On the one hand it is immediately 
condemned if obviously unsuitable or insecure ; on 
the other, it clearly may be quite suitable and secure, 
and yet not be a great work of art Consequently 
all architectural controversies turn on questions of 


style and details about modes of construction or 
ornamentation, but are not about the general nature 
of architecture. The brief sketch of the history of 
music which has been given above shows what has 
happened with regard to this art Prejudice has 
opposed its progress, but music has triumphed over 
its adversaries. There are left the two representant 
arts of sculpture and painting, whose nature has 
never been satisfactorily ascertained. 

As both those who write, and those who talk 
about art, are for the most part content to deal 
with generalities, and do not carefully examine the 
import of art-criticism, all these introductory ob- 
servations will possibly seem to be pointless. I will, 
therefore, in the hope of making the argument which 
follows intelligible, explain their bearing. Every 
one who has paid any attention to art -criticism 
must know that, when this criticism deals with 
painting, it is usual to introduce eulogistic terms 
about the honesty, the conscientiousness, and the in- 
dustry of the artist. Now it is obvious that, at least 
in the case of poetry and music, this kind of eulogy 
is not admitted. A poet would think that a poor 
compliment had been paid him if his critic, by way 
of exalting him, were to point out that he had 
evidently taken great pains, and was very honest 
In like manner, either a composer or an executant 


of a piece of music would be ill satisfied if no higher 
praise were awarded than honesty or painstaking. 
It is, therefore, worth while to ask whether, when 
such praise is accorded to the painter, he is in truth 
dealt with as one who practises a Fine Art, or 
whether he is not regarded rather as an artisan or 
artificer who practises a mechanical art. Aristotle 
in the Poetic Art points out that in the drama, 
which he takes as representing poetry, the actions 
which are introduced with the plot are a necessary 
condition, but are not, taken by themselves, enough 
to constitute a work of art. They are only the 
machinery which enables the poet to create character, 
and the test of excellence is the effect which the 
play as a whole produces on the feelings of the 
spectator. If painting is a Fine Art because it 
resembles poetry, the presumption is that a similar 
test should be applied to it. The presumption is 
that the critic who points out that this or that object 
is not faithfully imitated is dealing with a point of 
minor importance which cannot decide the artistic 
value of the work. If any one were to argue that the 
Iliad is not a poem because its historical value is 
doubtful, he would be laughed at. The question is, 
can criticism of a parallel kind be valuable in paint- 
ing? This kind of criticism was in this country 
supreme, chiefly with regard to landscape -painting, 


about twenty years ago. The celebrity which certain 
French landscape painters^-chiefly Daubigny, Corot, 
Troyon, and T. Rousseau — ^have since obtained gave 
it a severe blow from which it has not entirely re- 
covered. But it is now making itself heard in 
France, and is affecting the style of French painters. 
It has one invariable characteristic. It is always 
accompanied by an ostentatious attack on Academic 
authority. In the Esth^tique of M. Eugfene V^ron, 
a violent onslaught is made on the Acad^mie des 
Beaux Arts, and he makes two curiously inconsistent 
accusations against the professors. He declares that 
the Acad^mie is the enemy of the arts ; firstly, 
because the teachers in the ficole study with an 
excessive zeal the work of their predecessors ; 
secondly, because they are profoundly ignorant of 
all technical questions. " Parmi ces ennemis, le 
plus puissant sans contredit est TAcad^mie des 
Beaux Arts. Les hommes de talent et de mdrite 
qui constituent ce corps sont d'autant plus dangereux 
pour le progr^s de Tart, qu'ils sont plus sinc^rement 
convaincus des services qu'ils lui rendent C'est 
cette sincerity qui fait leur force. S'ils se posaient 
en ennemis du progr^s, ils seraient bien vite rdduits 
k rimpuissance. Mais non, ce qu'ils veulent, ce 
qu'ils poursuivent avec ardeur, c'est le d^veloppement 

de Tart. Seul^ment ils sont persuades que ce 



d^veloppement n'est possible que par I'^tude assidue 
des arts d'autrefois." {Introduction^ xvii.) 

" Le malheur, c'est que nos professeurs ne con- 
naissent gu^re plus que leurs d&ves les procdd^ des 
grands ex^utants. lis ne les ont pas 6tudi6s de 
pr^ ou se croient plus forts qu'eux, mais en revanche 
ils sont plus ou moins compl^tement impregn^s de 
Tesprit retrograde des Academies aux-quelles ils 
appartiennent Ils sont acad^miques de nature, 
d'^ducation, d'habitude et de profession, et naturelle- 
ment ils enseignent les principes de TAcademie, c'est- 
a-dire I'imitation, Tob^issance, Tdtroitesse d'esprit, 
les theories toutes faites, les admirations et les haines 
pr^congues, les dangers de la spontaneity Le reste 
leur importe peu. C'est-i-dire qu'ils renversent 
pr^cisement les termes, eiiminant tout Tenseignment 
pratique qui pent se donner utilement sans porter 
atteinte k ce qu'il faut respecter dans Tartiste, 
puisque c'est le germ m£me de Tart, la personnalit^, 
et r^servant toute leur Eloquence pour Texposition de 
ce qu'ils appellent les regies immuables du beau, les 
principes ^ternels de Tid^al acaddmique." {Peinturey 
p. 328.) 

This fancy picture of the professors of the Ecole, 
as a class of men who sedulously eliminate practical 
study, and waste the time of their pupils with rodo- 
montade about the eternal principles of beauty, must, 


I should think, have amused any French artist who 
may have read it But such talk is now very fashion- 
able in France, and many French writers seem to 
think that a knowledge of the art of painting comes 
as Dogberry thought reading and writing do. M. 
Eugfene V6ron states his opinion with unusual force 
and clearness, but it is one which universally prevails. 
Everywhere it is thought that if all academic authority 
could be swept away, some very perfect kind of 
painting might appear which the world has not yet 
seen. This essay is an attempt to examine this 



The term Liberal Art is more venerable and famous 
than the term Fine Art. The former meant origin- 
ally a pursuit which one of free birth and cultivated 
tastes might follow without impropriety, but acci- 
dentally acquired in early European history a 
narrower meaning. It became a name for science. 
This meaning it retained in the language of accurate 
writers down to a very recent period, though many 
allowed it to revert to the wider etymological mean- 
ing. Its meaning at the present day is not well 
established, but apparently the received opinion is 
that the Fine Arts are Liberal Arts, though some 
Liberal Arts are not Fine Arts. Though this is in 
part a verbal question, it is not simply a verbal 
question. Real questions are often hidden in verbal 
disputes, and one lies hidden here. A Liberal Art 
is still a science rather than a Fine Art or a Useful 
Art, and when the terms are confounded the ques- 


tion about the nature of the Fine Arts is begged. 
It is taken for granted that they are of the nature 
of sciences. A history of the term Liberal Art will 
best establish the facts. 

It is evident that there is a difference between 
science and knowledge, for, were it not so, the term 
"scientific knowledge," which is in common use, 
would be tautological and meaningless. It is at the 
same time certain that the sciences include all know- 
ledge of every kind. This contradiction compels us 
to assume that a given proposition may belong to 
science in one place, and may be unscientific in 
another. This is found to be the case when 
instances are examined. The savage knows that 
by rubbing together two pieces of wood heat can be 
obtained, but his knowledge is not scientific. The 
same fact belongs to science when put in connexion 
with the general facts that heat is a mode of motion, 
and that force is imperishable. A science may, 
accordingly, be defined as a body of propositions 
between which there is a logical connexion. They 
are usually subdivided into the inductive and de- 
ductive sciences ; but induction is in truth deduction 
aided by experiment and observation. In both 
kinds there is a union of more extensive with less 
extensive propositions. Cicero's name for a classi- 
fication of this kind was ars. In that part or 


edition of the Academics which has been called 
LucuUus, ars is defined as a generic term which 
includes art and science. "Cumque artium aliud 
ejusmodi sit ut tantummodo animo cemat, aliud ut 
moliatur aliquid et faciat" It is said in this passage 
that one kind of art discerns with the mind, another 
makes and fashions things. The former is science ; 
the latter art Though all will allow that ars was 
Latin for art, perhaps some will deny that it was 
also a name for science. There are, however, other 
passages in the Academics, of which the following is 
one, which prove this to have been the case : — " Quid 
fiet artibus ? Quibus ? iisne quae ipsae fatentur con- 
jecture se plus uti quam scienticl, an iis quae tantum 
id quod videtur sequuntur, nee habent istam artem 
vestram quae vera et falsa dijudicet ? " This is part 
of an argument about the certainty of knowledge 
and the relative advantages of inductive and de- 
ductive science. No sense can be made of it unless 
artibus is translated sciences. It is "What will 
become of the sciences ? Which ? Do you mean 
those which avowedly rely on conjecture rather than 
knowledge, or those which pursue that which is evident 
to sense, and have not your boasted faculty of discern- 
ing between truth and falsehood ? " There is a play 
upon words in the use of catijectura. The sciences 
in question trust to canjectura in the original sense 


of the word, that is, a casting together or s}mthesis. 
It suits the supposed disputant to pretend that this 
is equivalent to an admission that synthetical science 
is mere guess-work. But in any case, however this 
word conjectura may be interpreted, it is indisputable 
that the sciences, not the arts, are in question. But 
there was also the word disciplina^ which is in 
Cicero's writings usually, if not always, a school of 
philosophy, but which, it seems, sometimes meant a 
science. Varro, apparently, so used it He com- 
posed a treatise called the Nine Disciplines^ which 
seems to have been an encyclopaedia of science, as 
science was then understood. This treatise has 
perished, but its effects remain, and it determined 
the meaning of the term Liberal Art in the following 
manner : — Some time in the fourth century, for there 
is a doubt about the date, Martianus Capella com- 
posed a kind of philosophical romance, which was in 
its day very celebrated. This still exists, and is 
written in so tedious and affected a style that it is 
hard to understand the taste which admired it It 
is called the Nuptials of Mercury with Philology the 
daughter of Phronesis, The wedding is a pretext 
for the introduction of essays on seven arts which 
appear as attendants or bridesmaids. These seven 
arts are the following: — Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric, 
Geometry, Arithmetic, Astronomy, Music. It is 


almost certain, though Martianus Capella does not 
avow this in so many words, that these seven arts 
were taken from Varro's Nine DisdplineSy and it is 
obvious that the word discipline would be less suit- 
able for a figurative bridesmaid than the word art. 
It may be gathered from Book IX., which treats of 
music, that the omitted disciplines were architecture 
and medicine. It is said in this Book that Apollo 
advanced and proposed that these should also be 
invited to attend ; but after the question had been 
discussed it was decided that they would be out of 
place in a celestial assembly, as being arts which 
minister to the bodily wants of the human race, and 
therefore base and ignoble. It must here be ob- 
served that the modem distinction between the fine 
art of architecture and the useful art of building did 
not occur. They are identified and dismissed as 
useful. Nevertheless, it is possible that if the author 
had not been fettered by the necessity of an odd 
number he might have included architecture. The 
introductory part of the narrative contains a disserta- 
tion on the value of odd numbers, and is apparently 
meant as an apology for reducing the nine disciplines 
to seven arts. He could not omit medicine without 
omitting one of the others ; otherwise eight would 
have been left The profane narrative of Martianus 
Capella, who seems to have been a pagan, would 


have been soon forgotten, if it had not caught the 
eye of Cassiodorus ; but he rewrote these essays from 
an orthodox point of view, and thus a list of studies 
was provided when the universities of Europe were 
founded. Cassiodorus is, indeed, not quite ingenu- 
ous. He refers to Varro, but says nothing about 
Martianus Capella. It is, however, as certain that 
he borrowed from the latter, as that the latter was 
indebted to Varro. The similarity is too great for 
the possibility of a coincidence, and it is not surpris- 
ing that he should have wished to suppress the fact 
that he found his seven arts in the disreputable 
society of the heathen deities. Cassiodorus gave 
these seven arts the name of the Liberal Arts, which 
they have retained down to the present day, and 
thus attached to the term the meaning of a science. 
I will recur presently to the nature of music, but all 
these studies, with that exception, would now be 
called sciences. The introduction which Cassiodorus 
prefixed to his essays is devoted to make it clear 
that they are sciences, and he insists on the import- 
ance of science from a theological point of view, 
identifying, in the spirit of Plato, the good and the 
harmonious. In support of this he gives a false 
derivation for the word Liberal, declaring that the 
Liberal Arts are those which are contained in books. 
The meaning, thus given has remained unchanged 


almost down to our own time. Johnson uses the 
term Liberal Art as another name for science in the 
following passage as elsewhere : — ^^ There is, I think, 
not one of the Liberal Arts which may not be com- 
petently learned in the English language. He that 
searches after mathematical knowledge may busy 
himself among his own countrymen, and will find 
one or other able to instruct him in every part of 
those abstruse sciences." {Idler ^ No. 91.) This term, 
accordingly, as thus introduced into modem Europe 
is not the exact equivalent of the ingenuca artes. 
The latter were any pursuits which one of free birth 
might take up. The Liberal Arts are more strictly 
defined. They are not simply the non- servile 
pursuits, but are studies which need no technical or 
manual instruction, being of a purely intellectual 
kind. Hence was formed the idea of a university 
which Newman has described as a centre of intel- 
lectual activity. It does not appear that these seven 
arts, which are now known as the seven University 
Arts, were, when the Faculty of Arts was established, 
rigorously necessary. They were a type, and as 
occasion required one might be omitted, or others 
added ; but they g^ve the Faculty of Arts its char- 
acter, and by means of it decided the general 
character of the universities of Europe. At the 
present day a complication has resulted. There is on 


the one hand a desire, almost universal, to support 
the view that the Fine Arts can be taught, as the 
Liberal Arts are taught, theoretically. On the other, 
the University of Oxford has for the first time in its 
history, with one doubtful exception, departed from 
the traditional ideal and included practical instruction. 
The word science when first introduced did not 
mean what it now means. Theology was called 
scientiay not because it contained deductions or in- 
ductions, but because it dealt with a higher, surer, 
and more venerable kind of knowledge than the 
Liberal Arts. It has now abated its pretensions. 
Its warmest advocates only claim for it that it is 
knowledge, and it is no longer scientia scientiarum. 
But the sentiment that some of the sciences ought 
not to be called sciences, and that this term should 
be reserved for the more important, which thus 
arose, may still be traced. Professor Max Miiller 
was once attacked for a too lavish use, as his critic 
thought, of this word, and made the following 
reply: — "Whatever artificial restrictions may have 
been forced on the term science in English and 
American, the corresponding term in German, Wis^ 
senschafty has as yet resisted all such violence." 
{Chips from a German Workshop, vol. iv., p. 499.) 
It is implied here that the restriction is a recent one, 
but it is more probably a remnant of the academical 


prejudice derived from the consecration of the word 
scientia to theology, and it seems to be dying out 
The word Wissenschaft did not apparently obtain in 
Germany the meaning of science as distinguished 
from knowledge until a comparatively recent period. 
It seems from the article on the word Kunst in the 
new edition of Grimm's Wdrterbuch that the earlier 
writers used Kunst for science. It is therefore in- 
telligible that the word Wissenschaft^ not having 
been prematurely forced into circulation in an un- 
tenable sense, should have at once occupied its 
rightful position. The distinction between art and 
science is hardly required until civilisation has made 
great progress. Ancient Greece had, indeed, this 
distinction ; but the philosophy of Greece was far in 
advance of the speculation of mediaeval Europe. It 
is not at first understood that knowledge can be 
sought for its own sake, nor that mechanical appli- 
ances and manual dexterity are less important than 
intelligence. The astronomer is confounded with 
the astrologer ; the mathematician with the diviner ; 
the chemist with the transmuter of metals. A skilful 
use of globes, retorts, and measuring implements is 
thought to be more effectual than the right use of 
the mental faculties. Art and science are barely 
distinguishable in this stage of opinion. They be- 
come distinct when it allowed that knowledge is 


desirable for its own sake, and that he is the greatest 
astronomer, mathematician, and chemist, who knows 
most, not he who is most dexterous in manipulating 
mysterious implements. This was not clearly under- 
stood when the Faculty of Arts was established. 
There has been some dispute about the origin of this 
Faculty or Department ; but there is an extract from 
the Statutes of the University of Vienna in the 
Glossary of Ducange, under the word Ars^ which 
doubtless contains the truth. The pith of it is 
comprised in the following words : — " Filii namque 
Facultatis Artium aptiores sunt ad quaevis studia 
altiora, dummodo tamen non duxerint se emanci- 
pandos ante tempora a provide matre, Facultate, 
scilicet, Artium." The sciences were studied in this 
spirit They were the subjects of an elementary 
school, and theology was chief among the studia 
altiora to which they were subservient. This notion 
that there is only one kind of knowledge desirable 
for its own sake, viz., theolqgical knowledge, gradu- 
ally died out The Faculties of Law and Medicine 
became more scientific, and the various Arts which 
compose the Faculty of Arts acquired a value of 
their own. But the original view, supported by 
academical authority, that there is only one true 
science, remained, and a Liberal Art had thus a 
variable signification. It was according to the 


opinion of those who used the term, either a true 
science, ue,^ a kind of knowledge sought for its own 
sake, or a semi-science, valuable only as an aid to 
some end. Then came in the formula Science and 
Art, in which the question is evaded. Art might 
be taken to mean useful art, or science. Every one 
knew that there was some difference between science 
and art: no one knew what the difference was, or how 
to reconcile the different opinions. This indiscrimin- 
ate use of the words produced comparatively little 
inconvenience so long as no one discussed the Fine 
Arts. But when this new term was added, and these 
were called shortly the Arts, just as the Liberal Arts 
Jiad been frequently called, for the sake of conveni- 
ence, and as they are still called in university 
formulas, confusion arose. Some authors, chiefly 
French authors, of whom Diderot is one, confidently 
assumed that Fine Art is another name for painting 
and sculpture, and is, at the same time, a name for 
Liberal Art. Others, while deterred by the aca- 
demical usage from entirely repudiating the word 
art as a name for science, began to manifest a 
reluctance to use it in this sense, seeing intuitively 
that the Fine Arts differ from the sciences as well 
as from the useful arts, and that the term is not 
required, except for the purpose of marking this 
difference. Hallam in his Literature of Europe has 


occasion in various places to name the Academical 
or Liberal Arts; but when he discusses them evi- 
dently prefers the word science. 

There is at Oxford a Faculty of Music, the origin 
of which Antony k Wood apparently does not know, 
and which, I infer, is lost in obscurity. There is 
also at Cambridge a Faculty of Music I do not 
know whether anj^thing is more certainly known 
about this. There is a probability, so great as to be 
almost a certainty, that this Faculty was established 
in these universities when all academical interests 
were ' subordinate to theology, and a knowledge of 
music was wanted for the celebration of religious 
services. A satirical poem of the seventeenth cen- 
tury is extant, in which the author laments that the 
puritanical rage destroyed the most agreeable element 
of Oxford life when it expelled the musicians. It 
is therefore probable that at one time the art of 
music was taught at these universities. But however 
flourishing the faculty or department may once have 
been, it has never recovered from the effects of the 
puritanical attack, and students do not now go up 
to the universities with any expectation of finding a 
staff" of music -masters or singing-masters. The 
music which figures in the list of Liberal Arts is 
the science, not the art, of music. The essay of 
Cassiodorus would prove this, if a proof were wanted. 


It is true that the science was studied formerly, and 
is studied now, with a view to the art, but this does 
not affect the fact that it is distinct. Geometry 
may be studied for the purpose of mensuration, but it 
is not the less a science. In France the science and 
the art are placed apart. The former belongs to 
the Acad^mie des Beaux Arts ; the latter to the 
Conservatoire. This is not the strictly logical 
arrangement, for the school of music should in 
theory belong to the Acad^mie like the school of 
painting ; but strictly logical arrangements are some- 
times inconvenient. Now, though it is quite certain 
that there is a science of music, and that music is 
consequently one of the Liberal Arts, there is no 
such certainty as regards painting. It is on the 
contrary quite certain that there is not, and never 
can be, a science of painting, in the sense in which 
there is a science of music. It remains to be seen 
whether there is one in any other sense. The fol- 
lowing are the reasons why there can be a true, 
or exact, science of music, though there can be no 
corresponding science in the art of painting : — Sounds 
can be divided under two heads — noises and musical 
sounds ; the latter of which alone belong to music. 
There is an ill-defined territory between the two 
classes, and noises may be more or less musical, 
while musical sounds may be partly unmusical ; but 


the distinction is valid notwithstanding, and musical 
sounds alone belong to music. No such subdivision 
of colours is possible. All colours are the property 
of the painter. This is a necessary result of the 
fact that painting is an art of representation, for the 
artist who represents must use all the colours which 
he sees. In the next place, musical sounds can be 
reduced to language or signs. Music can be written. 
Colours can be stated in language only in an ex- 
ceedingly imperfect way which is quite inadequate 
for scientific purposes. Colour is continuous, sound 
is discrete. A strip of paper may be produced which 
is crimson at one end and orange at the other, and 
these two colours may so intermingle and pass into 
each other that the smallest fragment which can be 
detached will be heterogeneous in kind, inclining to 
orange on one side and to crimson on the other. In 
addition to this, colour varies in accordance with its 
relation to other colour. If a scrap of gray paper 
which is lying on a sheet of white paper is cut into 
two halves, and one of these halves is laid on a sheet 
of red, the other on a sheet of blue paper, the 
original colour will entirely cease to exist, and will 
be replaced by two new colours. One of these 
portions — ^that lying on the red — will be bluer than 
the original gray, the other — that lying on the blue 

— will be redder. The nature of sound is different. 



A given musical sound is not raised or lowered in 
the scale by the addition of other sounds, either 
simultaneous or in succession. It may be concordant 
or discordant, but it remains a fixed quality, and is 
not changed as colour is changed by circumstances. 
Again colours combine to form new units. Purple 
is a compound colour with regard to its genesis, but 
is a simple colour for sensation. Sounds do not 
unite to form new units. When a chord is struck 
each note retains its individuality, and the practised 
ear of the musician can analyse it, and detect the 
various elements. Lastly, the vibrations which cause 
visual sensations have only a hypothetical existence. 
The phenomena can be explained on the assumption 
that there are such vibrations, but they cannot be 
seen or felt The vibrations, on the contrary, which 
cause sound sensations, have their being in ordinary 
matter, and are known by observation as well as in- 

A comparison of these differences will show that 
there is a possibility of a scientific treatment of 
musical sound, which does not exist for colour. The 
condition of a true science is that it should contain 
propositions, the terms of which have a definite 
meaning. We find this condition fulfilled in music. 
As musical sounds are produced by the vibrations of 
known material substances, a wire or string of such 



length and tension as to produce a musical sound 
can be divided into two exact halves, and thus can 
be ascertained the sound which the half produces as 
well as the sound which the whole produces. Both 
these sensations are fixed qualities. They can 
accordingly be represented by signs which have a 
definite signification. The sign represents on the 
one hand the sensation, on the other the string or 
wire of a certain length and tension. But an in- 
duction which is valid, because no instance has ever 
been discovered to contradict it, proves that the 
sensation of concordance or harmony is determined 
by the mathematical concordance or harmony of the 
vibrations. In the instance given here we have the 
most perfect mathematical concordance, viz., the ratio 
of 2 to I ; the vibrations are as nearly synchronous 
as they can be without being identical ; and we have 
at the same time the most perfect sensational har- 
mony, viz., the extreme notes of an octave. It is 
perfectly well-known that this parallel between the 
mathematical harmonies and the sensational har- 
monies can be traced farther, and that the musical 
quality diminishes as the mathematical coincidence 
diminishes, until at last we quit music for noise. 
Cassiodorus, accordingly, was quite right when he 
affirmed in the introduction to the Liberalium Litter- 
arum that music belongs to mathematica. Colours, 


however, cannot be so treated. The proposition 
" this IS brown " is indeterminate. It may have one 
of an interminable series of meanings. There is no 
possibility of fixing exactly the meaning of any 
colour-name. If it were proposed to determine the 
meaning of a colour-name by its relation to white, 
there would occur the prior difficulty of determining 
what is white. Here, as everywhere, an endless series 
of different tones is summed up under one name, 
and white represents all the cold as well as all the 
warm whites.. Further, there is not the slightest 
reason for supposing that colour harmony is deter- 
mined, like sound harmony, by mathematical or 
numerical harmony. The popular theory about 
colour harmony is that the ingredients of the com- 
posite ray of light determine it ; that those arrange- 
ments of colour which most nearly resemble the 
proportions of colour found in the rainbow are most 
harmonious. Professor Bain in the chapter on Sight 
{Senses and Intellect) speaks of this principle as if it 
had a scientific certainty. I do not, for my part, 
know whence this certainty arises. It is, assuredly, 
not a self-evident truth, like the axioms of Euclid, 
and is doubtfully supported by evidence. But, true 
or false, it is not the same as the theory of sound 
harmony. It must, with reference to this principle, 
be observed that some essayists, assuming it to be 


certain, have sought to persuade their readers that 
there is a science of painting. If, however, the 
arguments and examples are examined it will be 
found that they deal exclusively with decorative 
colouring, and do not touch the nature of painting 
proper, which is an art of representation. If the 
principle is granted, and though its value may be 
overstated, there is possibly some truth in it, a 
quasi-scientific treatment of decorative colouring is 
possible. Though colour-names are indefinite, there 
is a partial exception. When the ray of light is 
broken up by the prism, all the colours of which it 
is composed appear together in fixed order and 
proportions. The names of colours, therefore, when 
understood of the prismatic colours, have a more 
definite meaning than elsewhere. Thus the decorator 
who is not bound by the necessity of imitation, can 
at least in some measure rely on science. He can 
bear in mind the ingredients of the composite ray, 
and add such colours as make up the sum total. 
But the painter, in the proper sense of the word, 
cannot do this. He cannot put patches of red and 
green in his sky, because the blue is in excess of 
the quantity which the rainbow recommends. There 
are, therefore, two reasons why there cannot be a 
true or mathematical science of painting, though 
there is such a science of music. There is no cor- 


respondence between numerical and sensational har- 
mony in colour, and propositions about colour have 
not an exact meaning. The most definite names 
of colours are the names of the primaries. The 
secondaries — those which are formed by the mixture 
of two primaries — are less definite. The tertiaries 
— those which are formed by the mixture of two 
secondaries — are still more indefinite. There are 
left an infinite series which are comprised under 
brown and gray, and one or two other names. The 
primary colours are, in the language of artists, red, 
yellow, and blue, and these are the primaries intended 
in this arrangement In science the primaries are 
red, green, and a third colour, which is either blue or 
violet But a primary colour, however the word is 
understood, is not a pure colour. Professor Helm- 
holtz points out that the purest colour which can be 
found in nature, or produced by art, becomes more 
intense when the eye has been previously fixed on 
the complementary colour. This in the received 
theory implies that some of the complementary colour 
is present It is supposed that fatigue makes certain 
nerves less sensitive, and that this is the explanation 
of the law of successive contrast. As all colour is 
thus complex, composed of elements the quantities 
of which cannot be ascertained, there is an a priori 
impossibility of an exact nomenclature. One colour 


passes into another without the possibility of dis- 
tinction, and each colour changes when adjacent 
colours are changed. I am greatly indebted to 
Professor Helmholtz's Popular Lectures for what I 
have written on this subject ; but I have recast what 
he has said with a view to the argument It is im- 
possible for me to disentangle my own additions 
from the matter which his Essays have furnished, 
but if errors are detected, the reader may assume 
that I am original at least in these. 

The science of music is a part of Acoustic, and 
was developed before the latter and wider science, 
with a view to the art It would, perhaps, be more 
accurate and convenient if it were called Harmonic 
to distinguish it from the art Tradition formerly 
ascribed to Guido of Arezzo the more important of 
the discoveries ; but Bumey affirms, and later writers 
support him in this, that Guido cannot claim all 
which tradition formerly assigned to him. It is a 
science which is interposed between Acoustic and 
the Fine Art of music. No corresponding science 
can stand between Optic and Painting for the reasons 
given above. Colours cannot be subdivided as sounds 
are subdivided, nor can the harmonic effect be cal- 
culated as in music. Nevertheless there is a true 
science which is related to painting, as harmonic to 
music, though in a less degree. This is Perspective. 


Perspective is a part of mathematical like harmonic 
science. Colours exist in space and consequently in 
forms. Within certain limits scientific calculation 
can determine these forms. But as the condition of 
science is terms which have a definite meaning, and 
scientific treatment ends where the possibility of 
language ends, those forms alone can be calculated 
which can be stated in geometrical terms. The 
perspective of the circle, and of all curves which can 
be described in scientific language, can be calculated, 
because they can be inscribed in a rectilinear figure, 
the perspective of which can be first calculated. 
Even curves, the nature of which is not known, can 
be calculated in architectural drawmg, if an initial 
assumption is made. The artist who draws a series 
of arches, the curves of which he does not know, 
must trust to his eye for the curve of the first ; but, 
this being assumed, can calculate the others, because 
he can assume that the others are exact repetitions 
of the first, and that they are equi- distant Even 
with regard to the first he need only trust to his eye 
for one half, for he can assume that the two sides 
correspond. Scientific drawing is thus practically 
confined to architectural drawing, for the forms 
which are known and can be stated in the language 
of geometry are in natural objects exceedingly rare. 
The sun is round : the outline of the sea is horizontal 


and straight : perhaps some other instances may be 
found, but practically the artist wants the data for a 
scientific calculation. Mr. Hay, in his ingenious 
Essay^ in which he endeavours to demonstrate that 
the arts of painting and statuary are as scientific as 
music, though mankind have shut their ^y^ to the 
truth, omits all notice of the fact that the forms 
of the human body are composed of curves which 
cannot be mathematically described, and cannot be 
given by any calculation. He keeps solely to the 
more general proportions, and contends that science 
can determine these, forgetting that the artist, whether 
sculptor or draughtsman, who has determined the 
general proportions alone, has hardly begun his task. 
The truth of all which Mr. Hay says is, I imagine, 
very doubtful ; but if every word is granted his case 
is not proved. 

Supposing that what is here said is granted, it 
is plain that Fine Art begins where science ends. 
Scientific drawing of architecture is mechanical draw- 
ing, and is, as such, contrasted with artistic drawing. 
How then, it may be asked, can there be a Fine Art 
of music ? Harmonic effect can be calculated and 
stated in language. Why, then, is not music a 
mechanical art, like scientific drawing ? The answer 
is that although music can be written or reduced to 
language, it cannot be adequately written ; and 


though effects can be calculated, they cannot be 
entirely calculated. The extent to which calculation 
can go in the present stage of the arts is illustrated 
in the barrel-organs which we know so well and love 
so little. There is much with regard to which the 
composer can give hints, but nothing more. He can 
mark the forte and piano passages, the rallentando 
and accelerando ; he can indicate the notes which 
are to be sounded abruptly, and those which are to 
be connected, those which are to be emphatic, and 
those which are to be sounded faintly ; but the signs 
thus given can be interpreted in a thousand ways, 
and the executant may obey them literally, and yet 
shock the musician's ear. But there is another way 
in which musical signs are, as all language is, more 
or less imperfect A written musical note does not 
represent the whole result It represents only the 
set of vibrations, with the corresponding sensation, 
which is directly caused. Musical quality is, how- 
ever, given by the self- engendered harmonics which 
accompany this set of primary vibrations. Different 
instruments give these self-created companion notes 
in different degrees, and apparently the skill of one 
executant can call them forth more perfectly than 
another. It has often been observed that some 
performers seem to make the violin and the piano 
" sing," though others have not this mysterious gift. 



This is pure art beyond the region of science. It 
cannot be written and it cannot be calculated. 
Lastly, though mathematical science can determine 
harmonic effect, it cannot furnish the melody which 
must underlie the harmonic quality. The executant 
alone is called an artist ; but the Fine Art of music 
must be held to include the composer's part as well 
as the executant's. The science and the art can be 
distinguished. The science can be studied apart 
from the art, but it exists for the sake of the art, 
and is subordinate to it. A perfect knowledge of 
the theory is compatible with an absolute sterility 
of invention. The composer practises an art, though 
he is also master of a science. 

The Slade Professor of Fine Art in the Universities 
of Oxford and Cambridge is bound by the terms of 
his office to give theoretical lectures, as well as 
historical and practical instruction. The belief thus 
implied that it is possible in some way to teach 
painting theoretically is, I believe, almost universal. 
It is, as I have endeavoured to show, the same as 
the belief that the art of painting is a Liberal Art. 
Theoretical discussion is only another name for 
scientific discussion. A theory must contain a 
general proposition, and the proposition must be 
certainly true if the theory is sound. There is 
such a proposition in musical science. It is cer- 


tainly true that there is a correspondence between 
the rates of vibrations which produce the feeling of 
harmony and this feeling itself. | It is certainly 
known that a given combination of certain sets of 
vibrations will produce the effect known as a major 
key ; that another combination will produce the 
effect of a minor key ; that a third will produce 
discord. No general proposition of this kind can 
be discovered in the art of painting. What, then, 
can the theory be which is unfolded in theoretical 
lectures on painting ? Widely held as the doctrine 
is that theoretical instruction is possible, it is accom- 
panied by the suspicious doctrine that in the art of 
painting the proverb cuiqtu in arte sud credendum 
does not hold good. It was observed in the last 
chapter that critics who praise painters for their 
honesty, attack academic authority as the root of 
evil. The same peculiarity marks the belief that 
theoretical instruction is possible and desirable. It 
is accompanied by the doctrine that painters cannot 
be trusted in the criticism of pictures. It will not be 
disputed that even as a purely speculative question 
the nature and origin of this belief deserves investiga- 
tion ; but it has a practical importance — for those, 
at least, who are interested in the art — besides the 
speculative interest The founder of the Slade Pro- 
fessorship undoubtedly intended to promote and do 


honour to Fine Art, as it is called. But benefactions 
have not always borne the fruit which they were 
intended to bear, and things as well as men are 
made ridiculous when put in false positions. Pre- 
tended theoretical lectures — if they are only a false 
pretence — can but bring into contempt the subject 
which they are meant to encourage. They can be 
nothing more than a few confident expressions of 
opinion distended with more or less irrelevant digres- 
sions. Historical lectures, of course, are possible. 
There is a history of painting, as of all other things, 
and lectures on it, whether ancient or modern, find 
a natural place in a scheme of intellectual education. 
But it was a hazardous step to authorise theoretical 
lectures without some inquiry whether these are in 
any way possible. Yet it may be doubted whether 
the practical instruction would have been readily 
admitted except in connexion with such lectures. 
It must not be taken for granted that because Sir 
Joshua Reynolds lectured on painting he held that 
theoretical instruction is possible. The real nature 
of his opinion on this matter will be shown in a 
subsequent chapter. But if his lectures are set 
aside, who will contend that any profit has been 
derived from the successive courses of the Royal 
Academy? The answer, I presume, will be that 
to which I have referred. Painters of all men are 


most Ignorant of the principles of painting. The 
prevalence of this opinion makes it difficult to frame 
an argument Sir Joshua Reynolds was the friend 
and intellectual equal of Johnson and Burke. He 
wrote, when his opinions were matured and his 
reputation established, on the art to which he had 
devoted his life. Yet when a graduate of Oxford, 
wholly unknown to fame, announced that Sir Joshua 
Reynolds was inaccurate in his facts and false in his 
principles, not one educated Englishman in twenty 
felt any surprise or incredulity. These words are in 
the Preface to the second edition of Modern Painters. 
It would make no difference if they were expunged. 
It would still be certain that they must be applied 
either to Mr. Ruskin or to Sir Joshua Reynolds. 
As a recourse cannot be had to the usual kind of 
authority the only method is a reductio ad absurdum 
of the doctrine that theoretical or non- practical 
teaching can do anj^ing for painting. But lest it 
should be supposed that no authority can be cited 
for this view, I will quote a passage which even 
historically is interesting. De Piles, a French author, 
published some observations on the treatise of Du- 
fresnoy, of which there is a translation in the works 
of Dryden. He says, "I have learned from the 
mouth of Monsieur Du Fresnoy that he had often- 
times heard Guido say that no man could g^ve a 


rule of the greatest beauties, and that the knowledge 
of them was so abstruse that there was no manner of 
speaking which could express them." {Drydetiy vol. 
xvii., p. 408, ed. 1 82 1.) 

If this is the true theory, that there are no rules, 
the materials for a course of theoretical lectures must 
be somewhat scanty, and the discussion of qualities, 
so abstruse that no manner of speaking can express 
them, cannot be very valuable. If all artists had 
understood this as well as Guido understood it — if 
they had always replied to the littirateur that his 
arguments and criticisms touched only points of 
minor importance, and that the essential qualities of 
their art are outside the sphere of language, and 
thereby of logic, their case would be stronger than it 
is. But they have shrunk from this, and by attempt- 
ing to argue where argument is impossible, have put 
a weapon into the hands of their adversaries. The 
race of artists is proverbially irritable. Their critics 
have thought, not unnaturally, that this irritability is 
a sign of inordinate vanity, and springs from an 
excessive desire of commendation. It is in truth the 
sign in many cases of a feeling that they are judged 
on what seems to them a side-issue, and an inability 
to argue the point They pass over the prior ques- 
tion, whether argument is possible, and are embar- 
rassed at the results of their concession. In an old 




Greek epigram, of which Person made a famous 
parody, it is said that All Lerians are bad — not this 
one or that one — all except Proclees, and Prpclees 
is a Lerian. This, mutatis mutandis^ may be said of 
Sir Joshua Reynolds. His true opinion wsis the 
same sis Guido's, and he was in a false position when 
he lectured. It is exceedingly improbable that he 
can have been wholly wrong where his statements 
are definite, and are about a tangible question ; but 
it is no disparagement to him to think that he may 
in some places have endeavoured to argue where the 
nature of the case made it impossible. Constable, 
who was too intelligent, and knew too much of art 
to speak with arrogance and disrespect of so great a 
man, thought this. In one of his letters he wrote as 
follows : — " C. has been drivelling a parcel of sad 
stuff in the Worcester paper in the name of Lorenzo. 
God knows not Lorenzo di Medici, but it is all about 
ideal art, which in landscape is sheer nonsense, as 
they put it. Even Sir Joshua is not quite clear 
about this." (Leslie's Life of Constable^ ch. xv. p. 



It was very commonly thought, not many years ago, 
that theoretical teaching of some kind could be 
advantageous to the useful arts. This notion has 
now been in some degree dispelled by experience 
and competition with other countries. It has been 
found that lectures on taste lead only to feeble imi- 
tations of foreign styles and incongruous mixtures, 
and that the true way to improve the manufacture 
of carpets, porcelain, and furniture, is to provide a 
sound practical or technical system. But it is 
thought that the Fine Arts are altogether different 
in their nature. Theory, it is supposed, is all« 
important for them, and an indefinite belief prevails 
that there are some principles from which the true 
practice may be deduced. A revolution in the system 
of teaching drawing, which has recently taken place 
in this country, shows how rash it is to rely on such 

an assumption. Less than twenty years ago a 



student of our Royal Academy would have hardly 
found words strong enough to express the contempt 
which he would have felt for a crayon study shaded 
with a stump ; but at the present day a visitor to the 
British Museum may see students copying the antique 
statues, and shading them with paper stumps, ignor- 
ant, apparently, that they can be accused of an 
artistic crime. This change of method has been the 
result of an experience which some English artists 
have had of the superiority of the French method, 
and theory must always have remained, as it always 
had been, impotent to touch the question. It will 
seem to many that whether drawing is taught in 
one way or another must be a trivial matter. This 
is part of the doctrine that theories and principles 
are all-important. But artists know that a faculty 
of drawing is the foundation of excellence in paint- 
ing, and that the correct draughtsman has more time 
at his command, and paints in a better style than 
others. The half-taught artist who finds out too 
late that his outline is faulty is condemned to a 
long and laborious process if he would fain make 
good his initial error, and sometimes, after days of 
wasted labour, is obliged to reject the canvas on 
which he has been at work, and begin his task afresh. 
Even if the first mistake can be corrected, the result 
is rarely zs satisfactory as it would have been if no 


mistake had been committed. French artists, how- 
ever, have always maintained that France produces 
better draughtsmen than England, and that their 
superiority can be traced to the employment of a 
true system of shading. Perhaps some Englishmen 
will be found to deny the excellence which French- 
men claim for themselves ; but no Frenchman, and, 
indeed, no foreign artist of any kind, will be found 
to defend the old English method of shading with 
the point of the crayon. This is, however, a purely 
technical question which experience alone can de- 
cide. There are others of a more general description 
which can be discussed without technical words or 
technical knowledge by an appeal to common sense. 
Such a discussion is, indeed, superfluous for artists ; 
but as it is a part of the doctrine of the day that 
artists cannot be trusted in their own profession, an 
attempt to put the question in its true light may be 
forgiven. Art, as it is called, is now very fashion- 
able. Institutions are founded on all sides to pro- 
mote it, and orations are delivered in its honour, 
and it behoves those who take an interest in it 
to look whither they are going. The practice of 
academies is the fruit of a long experience, and it is 
unwise to take for granted that traditions are always 
the offspring of prejudice. It should be remembered 
that theoretical writers have long proclaimed their 


intention and capacity to do great things for the art 
of painting. Lessing announced that he had come 
to reform the arts. The modem artist had, he de- 
clared, sunk to a deplorable baseness of temper, and 
he undertook to cure him. Other writers have given 
a diagnosis of artistic maladies, and have propounded 
their various remedies. It is time that the tree 
should have borne some fruit, or that its sterility 
should be explained. We should be told why 
Phidias or Titian, who owed nothing to theoretical 
instruction, have not been eclipsed, and how their 
styles were formed, if theories are a sine qud non. 
The art teacher, in truth, bears testimony against 
himself. Though he cries aloud that his mission is 
to refine the arts and restore the glories of Greek 
sculpture and mediaeval architecture or painting, he 
admits that he is a Cassandra, and that a stubborn 
generation turns a deaf ear to his exhortations. A 
dry and minute investigation of such points as admit 
such treatment may be tedious ; but some, perhaps, 
may be willing to consider what can be said in behalf 
of the academic system of teaching drawing, and 
this discussion will form a convenient introduction 
to the more general question. 

The practice in academies is to teach drawing, 
both by the aid of casts and statues of the human 
body, or parts of the human body, and also from 


" the life/* as it is technically called, i,e. the natural 
or living body. In this country a long course of 
study of casts or statues has usually preceded the 
study of the natural body ; but in all academies both 
methods are adopted, and special studies of the ex- 
tremities — the head, the hands, and the feet — are 
made by means of casts. It is unnecessary to quote 
evidence about this, for no one, I imagine, will dis- 
pute the facts. There is another system, which may 
be called the anti-academical method, different in 
two respects. The peculiarity of the academical 
system is, that in it drawing is taught by means of 
solid objects or things in three dimensions, and that 
these solid things are the human body, or parts of it. 
In the anti-academical system drawing is taught first 
by setting the pupil to copy drawings, photographs, 
and engravings, and the course is completed by studies 
of stones, plants, trees, branches of trees, and other 
objects of this kind. Mr. Ruskin has advocated the 
latter system in his Elements of Drawing, There are, 
therefore, two questions. If the academical method 
can be justified, it must be shown that solid things are, 
as models, more instructive than things in two dimen- 
sions ; and it must also be shown that of things in 
three dimensions the forms of the human body are 
preferable to all others. Both these questions can 
be examined without any intrusion of technicalities. 


It is very commonly supposed that a kind of 
instruction is requisite for landscape distinct from 
that which is needed for portrait and figure-painting, 
and that Academicians limit their course of teaching 
to the human body because they despise landscape, 
or, at any rate, think it a lower kind of art than 
figure-painting. There may be Academicians who 
think this. Every one is naturally disposed to rate 
his own vocation highly, and perhaps portrait or 
figure painters do think that their department is the 
higher. It is, however, quite unnecessary to investi- 
gate this point A knowledge of drawing is in the 
art of painting what a knowledge of grammar and 
syntax is in literature. It is as superfluous to ask 
whether the pupil in the one case proposes to paint 
landscapes or figures, as it is in the other to inquire 
whether he intends to write on history or science. 
The only question is which is the more efficient 
system. But this popular error is connected with, 
and is, indeed, almost identical with, another. It is 
thought that the practice of copying pictures and of 
copying statues or casts rests on the same ground : 
that professors who advocate the one advocate the 
other, and that the object is to form what is called 
a classical style. The fact is, that all recommend 
studies of casts and statues, but that opinions differ 
greatly about the necessity of copying pictures. 


The former practice is everywhere a part of the 
necessary course, while authorities differ about the 
latter, and all agree that it may be abused. Leonardo 
da Vinci wrote as follows : — " The Adversary says 
that to acquire practice and do a great deal of work 
it is better that the first period of study should be 
employed in drawing various compositions done on 
paper or on walls by divers masters, and that in this 
way practice is rapidly gained and good methods. 
To which I reply that the method will be good if it 
is based on the works > of good composition and by 
skilled masters. But, since such masters are so rare 
that there are but few of them to be found, it is a 
surer way to go to natural objects than to those 
which are imitated from nature with great deteriora- 
tion and so form bad methods." {Leonardo da Vinci^ 
Richter, p. 246, ed. 1883.) There is, I believe, a 
further reason why it must be held that such advice 
comes from the mouth of " The Adversary." Al- 
though it is indisputable that the practice of drawing 
forms a manual dexterity, and that the finished artist 
has a touch and quality of line which is all his own, 
the end of the drawing school is to cultivate the eye, 
not the hand, and the style of drawing is only an 
incidental result The necessity of a special cultiva- 
tion of the eye is a result of the peculiar connexion 
between the sense of sight and the sense of touch 


which Berkeley made the basis of his celebrated 
metaphysical and theological speculation. Sight 
alone, if it had never been exercised in co-operation 
with the sense of touch, would know nothing of dis- 
tance or the third dimension. But a long experience 
of visual sensations in conjunction with tactual sensa- 
tions has so trained and educated the visual faculty 
that it instinctively recognises distance. The purely 
metaphysical question whether there must be an a 
priori intuition and Berkeley's theological inference 
are distinct from the certain fact that visual sensa- 
tions alone cannot contain an indication of distance. 
The draughtsman must, however, forget the third 
dimension. His task is to project in a plane the 
lines which, in natural objeqts, are not in a plane. 
In order to do this he must mentally project them, 
or imagine them, in a plane which would be cut at 
right angles by a line drawn from a point between 
his two eyes to the point on which the eyes are 
fixed. Strictly speaking, the eyes are not fixed on 
one point, but it is assumed in the projection that 
they are. But the processes of nature are as sure as 
they are slow. Nature has taught the eye to see 
objects such as tactual experience proves them to be, 
and it is not easy to imagine that lines are in one 
plane when it is certain that they are not A simple 
experiment will prove how much more accurately 


the eye can judge of the relations of lines to each 
other when they are not seen in perspective than 
when they are. Let any one draw on the wall, in 
front of which he is standing, an angle of no matter 
what dimensions, or let him fasten on the wall a 
piece of paper on which there is such an angle, and 
he will find that he can easily form a rough estimate 
of its magnitude and copy it with tolerable accuracy. 
If, however, he will then turn his eyes to the apparent 
angle, which the walls make at the comer of the 
room where they join the floor or the ceiling, and 
attempt to determine the magnitude of this angle in 
a similar manner, he will find that the problem is 
not so easy. It is hard to determine the magnitude 
in the latter instance, and even practised artists go 
wrong who trust to their eyes for their perspective, 
and refuse to call in a calculation to assist them. 
But the data for calculation do not exist in artistic 
drawing, and for this reason a special training is re- 
quired in order to give, so far as is possible, the 
power of imagining, or mentally projecting, forms in 
a plane. Apparent forms and real forms would be 
all one for sight if it had not acquired a kind of 
intuition foreign to its own nature ; but its education 
has been too perfect, and it cannot forget the lessons 
which it has received. The complete conviction 
that the perspective relations of lines to each other 


will change if the point of view is changed, and the 
certitude that touch or measurement will prove that 
the apparent angle is not the real angle, perplex the 
judgment and make it difficult to see truly the 
apparent {ix. which is seen) relation. When, there- 
fore, forms which are already projected in a plsme 
are copied, the chief lesson of the drawing school is 
not given, and such studies are a waste of time. 
Life is short and art is long, as the physician of Cos 
said, and drawings are not copied in well-ordered 
systems of instruction. 

We may now pass to the second question, why 
drawing can be thoroughly learned by a study of the 
forms of the human body alone ? This is a deduc- 
tion from the simple and obvious principle which 
pervades all education that those exercises are most 
valuable in which error can be most certainly de- 
tected. A langusige cannot be thoroughly learned 
without written exercises, because in these alone 
faults of grammar and construction are certainly dis- 
covered. False concords and wrong moods slip in 
and pass undiscovered in speech, which attract atten- 
tion when put into writing. In the same way no 
great proficiency can be obtained in musical execu- 
tion without the practice of unmelodious exercises. 
Melody distracts the esir, and little irregularities of 
time and force escape notice which are observed 


when melody is excluded. The sole question for 
the drawing school is what class of studies most 
certdnly secures the detection of inaccuracy, and 
to this question there is only one answer. The 
human body is unique for this purpose. There is 
in animal organism a bilateral symmetry, perfect as 
all the works of nature are, which is found in no 
other objects. The growth of trees and plants is 
determined in part, like the growth of animals, by 
organic laws ; but the difference is that the tree, the 
bush, the plant, is not an individual, but a group of 
individuals united together, and, this being the case, 
mechanical laws rather than organic laws determine 
the relations of one side of the composite individual 
to the other. There does not exist in the vegetable 
world a perfect bilateral symmetry such as found 
in the animal world. The forms of almost all ani- 
mals, however, except man, are disguised by a coat- 
ing of fur or hair or feathers. In man alone can all 
the various curves which the muscles form as they 
overlap each other be plainly seen. These curves 
change as the position changes, but the correlation 
of parts to each other remains. A change in the 
form of one curve implies a change both in the 
adjacent curves and in those which correspond on 
the opposite side of the body or limb. When, there- 
fore, the human body is drawn there is a certstinty 


that false drawing will be discovered because it pro- 
duces a manifest deformity. The fatal objection to 
Mr. Ruskin's system is that it enables the student to 
persuade himself and his friends that he is an artist, 
when he may, in truth, be ignorant of the A B C of 
£Lrt. The difference is that the more nicely and 
neatly studies of non-animal nature are finished, the 
more readily they pass muster ; the more perfectly 
the human body is shaded and moulded, the more 
inevitable the requisite criticism is. This is the real 
end of shading. It is not to make the drawing look 
pretty, but to give the form more perfectly, and the 
importsmce of a right method of shading is the result 
of this. It is easy to illustrate the point. There 
are, for example, some heads by Greuze, in which an 
ordinary observer, who has never studied drawing, 
immediately perceives that the eyes do not corre- 
spond. If these heads are closely examined it will 
be seen that the error is infinitely small, and it is 
not always easy to say whether the outline or the 
modelling is in fault. Such trifling inaccuracy could 
not possibly be detected in a study of leaves, stones, 
and objects of this kind. In the natural face the 
smallest displacement of the eyes is observed : an 
exceedingly minute swelling on the face or hands is 
observed. Equally minute departures from the 
normal forms catch the eye in a finished study. 


Lastly, a lesson is taught when the living body is 
substituted for the statue or cast, which cannot be 
taught in any other way. This is that attention 
must be paid to the remoter relations of lines to 
each other as well as to the immediate relations. 
The statue or cast is immovable. The forms re- 
main unchanged during the hours of study and from 
day to day. The living model is not so inflexible. 
Fatigue tells on him or her, and the pose, once 
quitted, cannot be re-discovered with precision. It 
is no longer sufficient to observe only the immediate 
relations of form. These are in the statue or cast 
trustworthy, and, if given correctly in each part, the 
whole which results must be true. But a slight 
change of attitude, whether caused by muscular 
fatigue or a difference of position, alters every part 
of the frame. A kind of computation is needed to 
correct the temporary fluctuations. This is a new 
difficulty, and the draughtsman who has not mastered 
it has no right to the name of artist. It is some- 
thing like the difficulty which beginners find in 
reading music when they are required to see not 
only the passage which is at each moment in exe- 
cution, but also the passages which are to follow, so 
as to be ready for the transition. It is proverbially 
difficult to attend to two things at once. Strictly 
speaking, it is impossible, and the so-called double 


attention is an incessant alternation of the attention. 
Practice alone can form the habit or faculty in 
drawing and in music 

The academic system is the product of an accumu- 
lated experience, and we find in this question how 
foolish the cry is that academies ought to be abol- 
ished, and that painters know less about their own 
art than any one else. Theories about such matters 
are worthless. They are superfluous if they confirm 
experience, and almost certainly wrong if they con- 
tradict it. But the quarrel between theory and 
academical authority is not usually of this definite 
kind. It springs out of a hasty assumption on the 
side of theoretical writers that the requisite technical 
instruction is not, and cannot be, difficult This 
notion is a tacit inference from the character of 
poeticsd literature, for it is forgotten that in this art, 
of which language is the instrument, the strict 
technical education is given in infancy, and that a 
knowledge of language, both spoken and written, 
is obtained by a long and laborious process. It 
is, accordingly, taken for granted, without any exact 
inquiry, that theoretical teaching does, as a matter 
of fact, occupy the attention of pupils in drawing 
schools. In other words, it is supposed that the 
main object of such schools is to form the style, and 
not simply to cultivate the perceptions of the eye. 


Cousin is reported to have spoken as follows in his 
course of lectures on the Good, the True, and the 
Beautiful: — "D'apr^s cette th^rie, quelle m^thode 
doit — on suivre dans Tenseignment des Beaux Arts ? 
Les d^es doivent — ils commencer par Tid^al ou 
par le rfel? Par Tunitd ou par la vari^td? M. 
Quatremfere se d&lare en faveur de Tiddal. Pour 
moi, je pense que les Grecs n'ont debutd ni par le 
rdel ni par I'id^al tout seul, mais Tun et Tautre k la 
fois. La nature ne commence ni par Tun ni par 
Tautre, c'est-^-dire, qu'elle n'offre jamais le gdn^ral 
sans rindividuel, ni Tindividuel sans le gdndral. 
Pourquoi ne mettrait — on pas les Olives aux prises 
avec la vari^td et avec Tunitd en mSme temps, et ne 
les ferait — on pas marcher comme les Grecs et 
comme la nature?" (P. 209, Hachette, 1836.) 
There is no more sense in this problem which 
Cousin propounds so gravely than there would be in 
a dispute whether the texts with which the first 
copy-book of an infant is furnished ought to be 
taken from Milton or from Addison. Comte took 
up the question of artistic education, and though for 
a moment he seemed to see the truth, immediately 
betrayed his belief that the technical instruction 
must be brief and easy. ** Par cela m^me qu'elle 
(education) est profond^ment esthdtique, elle leur 
rend superflue toute Education sp^ciale, sauf celle 


qui r&ulte spontandment de Texercise prdparatoire. 
Aucune autre profession n'est autant dispensde d'un 
enseignment particulier, qui ne tend qu'it y dteindre 
une indispensable originality en ^toufFant T^lan 
esth^tique sous le travail technique." {Politique Posi- 
tivCy Discours Pr^liminaire, V"®. Partie, vol. i., p. 
307.) The first part of this is consistent and intel- 
ligible. Comte says that if the technical instruction 
is given, the ^lan esthitique forms itself But he 
then adds that there is a danger lest this ^lan 
should be ultimately stifled by the travail techniqtce. 
This can only be thought by one who supposes that 
there is no real progress in the technical course, and 
that it is made up, after the first elements, of a 
monotonous and weariful repetition by which nothing 
is gained. In that case, doubtless, all //^«, the 
aesthetic among the rest, might be stifled. But an 
increase of technical facility is created if there is an 
advance, and this increased facility cannot in any 
way suppress qualities which might without it be 
displayed. True, an increased facility does not 
necessarily of itself produce poetic or artistic quality. 
There have been poets whose mastery of language is 
perfect, but who have been only skilful versifiers. 
There have been artists whose technical powers have 
been admirable, but who have not been great artists. 
Still it is incredible that there can have been in these 


poets and artists impulses which would have been 
revealed under more adverse circumstances, and 
which did not find an outlet because the path was 
made too smooth. The mute inglorious Miltons 
have lacked the requisite travail technique^ have not 
been extinguished by an excessive amount of it 
The opinion that the practical difficulties in the 
arts of painting and sculpture are very slight, and 
that any one who has a turn for such pursuits 
can in a month or two learn all which is desirable 
with very little exertion, is betrayed in various 
ways by those who discuss questions of this kind. 
The Pre-Raphaelite sect was partly made in this 
way. A number of young artists who had imper- 
fectly mastered the technical difficulties were pleased 
to find that critics saw in their imperfections the 
signs of a deep theory, and were too wise to protest 
against so flattering a view. Novel writers betray 
the same conviction. The hero or heroine, who has 
been reduced to poverty by some accident, after 
looking about for some resource, decides to paint a 
picture. A subject is selected which would have 
baffled Titian and Michael Angelo combined, and a 
masterpiece is immediately produced. This error 
falsifies criticism. Artists seem to be perverse in 
their selection of subjects. The critic shows that it 
would have been easy to find a more interesting 



theme, ignorant, or forgetful, that other considera- 
tions must be taken into account Thus is formed 
the doctrine which so widely prevails that Academi- 
cians, as representing artists generally, are the slaves 
of prejudice. 

There is a minor point which must be cleared up 
previously to an investigation of the general ques- 
tion. An habitual concentration of the attention in 
one direction invariably affects taste. The florist, 
the pigeon-fancier, the breeder of horses and cattle, 
learns to detect little differences, which escape the 
observation of those who have less closely attended 
to the peculiarities of flowers, pigeons, cattle, and 
horses, and learns to think these minute differences 
important The constant and prolonged attempt 
of the artist to render forms and colours, affects his 
taste in a similar manner. Not only does he come 
to attach greater importance than others do to 
colour and form in the abstract, but he notes and 
thinks important the particular mode of execution 
which each artist may adopt. These peculiarities of 
execution are known as touch and handling. The 
practised eye discerns style, where others see no 
style, and can distinguish between the laborious 
manner of the tyro and the facile hand of the 
accomplished artist, where the unpractised eye can- 
not detect a difference. This point, as many will 


remember, occurred in the celebrated trial of Belt 
versus Lawes. A number of Academicians were 
summoned as witnesses to decide the authorship of 
a bust which was produced, and every one was struck, 
while many were perplexed, by the singular unanim- 
ity of their testimony. It was, perhaps, faintly 
hinted, but was not seriously asserted, that their 
evidence was preconcerted. The judge who presided 
over the first trial spoke as follows, with reference to 
them : — " It is said that artists are better judges than 
amateurs. This has been contradicted elsewhere. 
It was the opinion of Sir Joshua Reynolds. I do 
not cite my own opinion on such a subject as of any 
weight, for I well know that in certain quarters any- 
thing I may say will be disputed, and perhaps natur- 
ally ; but I find on a recent reference that there is 
authority for this position more venerable even than 
Sir Joshua — to wit, Aristotle himself, according to Mr. 
Froude, who gave it as his opinion that artists are 
not so reliable judges of artistic merit as the public 
who give usually a broader, juster, and safer judg- 
ment than those engaged in the pursuit themselves. 
I must confront the dicta of Reynolds and Aristotle, 
as reported by Froude, with that of the great 
moderns, and leave you to choose which you prefer 
to adopt in the decision of this portion of this case." 
{Times J December 29, 1882.) I do not think that 


the judge, or any one who took this view, attempted 
to explain how the consensus of opinion, which was 
found among the different members of the Royal 
Academy, was formed. The presumption is that 
where a unanimous opinion is held, it must be broad 
and safe and just. But there can be little doubt 
that the words of the judge were in harmony with 
common opinion. Innumerable comments, which 
appeared afterwards in the newspapers, showed that, 
in spite of many protests, the accepted view was that 
the proverb cuique in sud arte credendum does not 
hold good in the arts of painting and statuary, and 
the supposed opinion of Sir Joshua Reynolds was 
thought to prove that he was a wiser man than his 
successors in the Academy. I do not propose to 
investigate Aristotle's opinion, for I do not think 
that those who know the general tenor of his writ- 
ings will be easily persuaded that he held skilled 
opinions to be less valuable than unskilled. But as 
literary reporters are less accurate than legal re- 
porters, and the dicta of Sir Joshua Reynolds go to 
the root of the matter, I will quote the words of the 
latter. The following essay on criticism, which was 
published in the Idler (No. T6)y was his composi- 
tion : — " I was much pleased with your ridicule of 
those shallow criticks, whose judgment, though often 
right as far as it goes, yet reaches only to inferior 


beauties, and who, unable to comprehend the whole, 
judge only by parts, and thence determine the merits 
of extensive works. But there is another kind of 
critick still worse, who judges by narrow rules, and 
those too often false, and which, though they should 
be true, and founded on nature, will lead him but a 
little way toward the just estimation of the sublime 
beauties in a work of genius : for whatever part of 
art can be executed or criticised by rules, that part 
is no longer the work of genius, which implies excel- 
lence out of the reach of rules. For my own part, 
I profess myself an Idler, and love to give my judg- 
ment, such as it is, from my immediate perceptions, 
without much fatigue of thinking, and I am of 
opinion that if a man has not those perceptions 
right, it will be vain for him to endeavour to supply 
their place by rules, which may enable him to talk 
more learnedly, but not to distinguish more acutely. 
Another reason which has lessened my affection for 
the study of criticism is that criticks, so far as I 
have observed, debar themselves from receiving any 
pleasure from the polite arts, at the same time that 
they profess to love and admire them, for these 
rules being always uppermost give them such a 
propensity to criticise that instead of giving up the 
reins of their imagination into their author's hands, 
their frigid minds are employed in examining 


whether the performance be according to the rules 
of art. 

" To those who are resolved to be criticks in spite 
of nature, and at the same time have no great dis- 
position to much reading and study, I would recom- 
mend them to assume the character of connoisseur, 
which may be purchased at a much cheaper rate 
than that of a critick in poetry. The remembrance 
of a few names of painters, with their general char- 
acters, with a few rules of the academy, which they 
may pick up among the painters, will go a great 
way towards making a very notable connoisseur. 

" With a gentleman of this cast I visited last week 
the Cartoons at Hampton Court. He was just re- 
turned from Italy, a connoisseur of course, and of 
course his mouth was full of nothing but the grace 
of Raffaelle, the purity of Domenichino, the learning 
of Poussin, the air of Guido, the greatness of the 
taste of the Carracci, and the sublimity and grand 
contorno of Michael Angelo ; with all the rest of the 
cant of criticism, which he emitted with all that volu- 
bility which generally those orators have who annex 
no ideas to their words. As we were passing through 
the rooms in our way to the gallery, I made him 
observe a whole length of Charles the First by Van- 
dyke, as a perfect representation of the character as 
well as the figure of the man. He agreed that it 

■■ w. ■• ".^^ '^W •'•■^P^^^^JW«^^'^i"^^^^^"^^«^if»^i*^ 


was very fine, but it wanted spirit and contrast, and 
had not the flowing line without which a figure could 
not possibly be graceful. When we entered the . 
gallery, I thought I could perceive him recollecting 
his rules by which he was to criticise RafTaelle. I 
shall pass over his observations of the boats being 
too little, and other criticisms of that kind, till we 
arrive at St Paul preaching. This, says he, is 
esteemed the most excellent of the Cartoons ; what 
nobleness, what dignity there is in that figure of St 
Paul ! And yet what an addition to that nobleness 
could RafTaelle have given had the art of contrast 
been known in his time ! But above all the flowing 
line which constitutes grace and beauty ! You would 
not then have seen an upright figure standing equally 
on both legs, and both hands stretched forward in 
the same direction, and his drapery to all appearance 
without the least art of disposition. The following 
is the charge to Peter : — Here, says he, are twelve 
upright figfures — what a pity it is that RafTaelle was 
not acquainted with the pyramidal principle! He 
would then have contrived the figures in the middle 
to have been on higher ground, or the figures at the 
extremities, stooping or lying, which would not only 
have formed the group into the shape of a pyramid, 
but likewise contrasted the standing figures. Indeed, 
added he, I have often lamented that so great a 


genius as Raffaelle had not lived in this enlightened 
age, since the art has been reduced to principles, and 
had had his education in one of the modem academies. 
What glorious works might we have then expected from 
his divine pencil." In this essay the word connoisseur 
IS used satirically. In the following passage, which is 
taken from the notes on Dufresnoy, it is used seriously; 
the half-learned connoisseur is the connoisseur of the 
preceding discourse. " The only opinions of which 
no use can be made, are those of half-learned con- 
noisseurs who have quitted nature and have not 
acquired art Of many things the vulgar are as com- 
petent judges as the most learned connoisseur ; of 
the portrait, for instance, of an animal, or of the truth, 
perhaps, of some vulgar passions." (Notes on Du 
Fresnoy's Art of Paintings by Sir J. Reynolds, Note 
xlix.) These passages show clearly what Sir Joshua 
Reynolds thought, and how much he was misunder- 
stood when quoted as an authority for the rejection 
of artistic testimony. Artists, according to him, are 
the true connoisseurs, and their opinion alone is valu- 
able ; next in order come the vulgar, who can judge 
whether a picture is a faithful imitation ; lastly, at 
the bottom of the list, the professed critic, whose 
opinion is always worthless. 

We may proceed now to the more general ques- 
tion. Though in this trial the point to be decided 


was one about the execution of a bust, the contro- 
versy generally is about the art of painting, and 
most of the arguments offered, and testimony quoted 
at the time and afterwards, had reference to painting. 
When an application was made for a new trial in the 
spring of the following year, it had, apparently, been 
discovered that it was rash to appeal either to Aris- 
totle or Sir Joshua Reynolds, and a far more suit- 
able authority had been found. An extract from 
Macaulay's Essays was substituted in support of the 
same view, which seems, curiously enough, to have 
been written for the express purpose of refuting 
Reynolds. In this extract, Macaulay uses the word 
connoisseur, which was not a very common term 
when he wrote, and though he b^ns with a general 
statement about all the arts, and men of genius, he 
ends with an illustration from, and an argument about, 
the art of painting alone. The passage is the follow- 
ing : — " It is neither to the multitude nor to the few 
who are gifted with real creative genius that we are 
to look for sound critical decisions. The multitude, 
unacquainted with the best models, are captivated by 
whatever dazzles them. A man of great original 
genius, on the other hand — a man who has attained 
to mastery in some high walk of art — ^is by no means 
to be implicitly trusted as a judge of the performances 
of others. The erroneous decisions pronounced by 


such men are without number. It is commonly sup- 
posed that jealousy makes them unjust. But a more 
creditable explanation may easily be found. The 
very excellence of a work shows that some of the 
faculties of the author have been developed at the 
expense of the rest, for it is not given to the human 
intellect to expand itself widely in all directions at 
once, and to be at the same time gigantic and well- 
proportioned. Whoever becomes pre-eminent in any 
art or style of art, generally does so by devoting 
himself with intense and exclusive enthusiasm to the 
pursuit of one kind of excellence. His perception 
of other kinds of excellence is therefore too often 
impaired. Out of his own department he praises 
and blames at random, and is far less to be trusted 
than the mere connoisseur, who produces nothing, 
and whose business is only to judge and to enjoy. 
The more fervent the passion of each artist for his 
art, the higher the merit of each in his own line, the 
more unlikely it is that they will justly appreciate 
each other. Many persons who never handled a 
pencil probably do far more justice to Michael 
Angelo than would have been done by Gerard Douw, 
and far more justice to Gerard Douw than would 
have been done by Michael Angelo." {TimeSy June 5, 
1883.) When Macaulay wrote this he was thinking 
of the sneers of Sir Joshua, and was doing battle 


in behalf of his fraternity. His literary skill deserves 
all praise. The pointless antithesis with which he 
begins between the multitude who are captivated by 
whatever dazzles them, which seems to mean, are 
pleased with whatever pleases them, and the genius, 
on the other handy who is by no means to be implic- 
itly trusted, does not lead up to the conclusion 
which is derived ; but the bad logic is hidden by an 
interposition of platitudes, such as that it is not given 
to the human intellect to expand itself widely in all 
directions at once. He does not tell us at first who 
the sages are whose judgment may be implicitly 
trusted, because they are not so weak as to be pleased 
with whatever pleases them. But it turns out that 
they are many who have never handled a pencil. 
This is mysterious. It would seem that after all the 
multitude are the trustworthy judges. It is, however, 
clear that Macaulay's modesty deterred him from 
saying exactly what he meant. We must put a gloss 
on these words, and read, " Some who have handled 
a pen," instead of " many who have never handled a 
pencil." There is then no difficulty. The purport 
of the passage is, that if Michael Angelo were still 
alive, it would be foolish to take his opinion about 
the merit of a picture, when a sounder opinion could 
be obtained from an eminent handler of the pen. 
The words that " out of his own department," the 


artist " praises and blames at random," are very true. 
Macaulay was an artist in language, and had studied 
the use of words with " an intense and exclusive 
enthusiasm." It is implied in his argument that 
artists who do not paint in the style of Michael 
Angelo are in the habit of denying the beauty and 
excellence of his works. It would be hard to find a 
more ill-founded accusation, or a better illustration 
of the truth that artists praise and blame at random 
when they quit their own department to offer opinions 
on matters which they have not studied. 

The view in support of which Macaulay's words 
were quoted in the Belt trial was that the multitude 
give safer, broader, and juster judgments than artists. 
Macaulay, it will be observed, does not say this — 
indeed, says the exact opposite of this. The multi- 
tude are captivated with whatever dazzles them. 
Nevertheless the barrister who quoted the passage 
was right, and the real point is the quarrel between 
artists and non-artistic critics, as to which Macaulay 
and the anti-artistic faction are quite in unison. Sir 
Joshua Reynolds gave a tripartite classification of 
opinion under the three heads. Artists, Critics, and 
the Vulgar. Macaulay, having in his mind what 
Reynolds had said, also gave a threefold division ; 
but the true division at the present day is the dicho- 
tomic division which the presiding judge gave. The 


connoisseur described by Sir Joshua Reynolds as a 
half-learned connoisseur has vanished, and his place 
has been taken by a wholly ignorant connoisseur, 
between whom and the multitude there is no dis- 
crepancy of opinion. It is obvious that Macaulay's 
premisses lead up to a result which he would not 
have admitted, and which is a reductio ad absurdum 
of them. He says that every one is the best judge 
in his own province, and that random opinions are 
formed outside it It follows that painters are the 
best judges of pictures. But he also says that very 
eminent artists cannot be trusted. It follows that, if 
painters are consulted about pictures, care must be 
taken to select unsuccessful painters. But he does 
not draw this inference, and did not wish to draw it. 
He wished to show that Reynolds was mistaken in 
thinking that the proverb about every one being the 
highest authority in his own art can be applied to 
painting. It is, therefore, indisputable that a good 
selection was made when Aristotle and Reynolds 
were dropped, and Macaulay put in place of them. 
The question appears in its true aspect in his argu- 
ment, though the reasoning does not support the 
inference. The real question is, whether one who 
writes on the art of painting, not having practised it, 
is, or is not, a higher authority than an artist ? This 
question is, from the nature of the case, the same as 


the question whether painting is a kind of science. 
Macaulay does not attempt to asisert this. He does 
not attempt to deny directly the contention of Rey- 
nolds that rules or fixed principles are out of place, 
and it is exceedingly significant of the truth that he 
should have abstained from making this attempt. 
If he could have shown that any sort of demonstra- 
tion is possible, he would have made his case good. 
Authority vanishes in the presence of demonstration. 
High as the authority of Newton is in science, it 
would be ridiculous to say that the wave theory of 
light must be rejected because Newton held the 
emission theory. If painting is a science, if it is a 
Liberal Art, academies must bow their heads and 
artists must admit that theoretical lecturers are their 
superiors. This, therefore, is the position of critics 
and essayists. It is necessary for them in some way 
to keep up the pretence that demonstration is pos- 
sible, for without this they have no raison dCetre ; 
but they find it exceedingly difficult to maintain this 
fiction, and the result has been that a very simple 
question has been kept out of sight by a lavish use 
of rhetoric and metaphor. An oracular air and an 
abundance of fine words are made to defend an 
untenable position. 

Reynolds, in his essay on criticism, derives the 
wisdom of the connoisseur from two sources. He 




first learned some rules of the Academy by convers- 
ing with artists, and then matured his powers by a 
tour in Italy. Tours in Italy and other parts of the 
continent have become more common' since those 
days, and travellers have ceased to prepare their 
minds by a study of academic rules before starting. 
The majority of the more recent travellers have taken 
little interest in, and paid small attention to, art A 
hasty annual visit to the exhibition of the Royal 
Academy, has been for most of them their only 
discipline. At home they have been free to consult 
their own tastes. Not caring for pictures, they have 
not thought it necessary to affect an interest which 
they did not feel, and have been busied with other 
matters. Circumstances are changed on the conti- 
nent. Time hangs heavily on hand, and a tyrannical 
guide-book declares that there are galleries to be 
visited which are full of celebrated pictures. The 
traveller who would confess without compunction at 
home that he does not know how many works of 
Titian, or Rubens, or Velasquez, our national col- 
lection contains, fears, when abroad, the cross-ques- 
tioning to which he may be exposed at table cThStCy 
and explores, partly out of curiosity and partly from 
a sense of duty, the treasures which he is assured 
are so admirable. He finds, to his surprise, that 
among these works, which are said to be priceless, 


there are many as to which he can only perceive 
that the subjects selected are uninteresting or improb- 
able, and he is irritated and perplexed by the dis- 
covery. He can understand that the bunch of roses 
which his daughter has painted on a screen should 
be admired, but cannot conceive why any one should 
be enthusiastic about compositions, the colours of 
which are gloomy and the themes unlikely or dis- 
agreeable. This feeling had reached an acute stage 
when Mr. Ruskin's Modem Painters was published. 
A general sensation of relief was felt when there 
appeared an authoritative declaration that it was not 
necessary to admire all the pictures which, up to that 
time, it was supposed good taste admired, and that 
a free ridicule of such errors, real or supposed, as 
could be discovered, was the surest sign of an en- 
lightened mind. It was for this reason that an 
attack on Sir Joshua Reynolds was welcomed. Of 
those who applauded this attack not one, probably, 
in a thousand knew precisely what Reynolds had 
said or which the painters were that he admired 
or disliked. But his name represented the odious 
academical authority which insisted that works devoid 
of all apparent merit were excellent, and it was 
pleasant to hear that he was inaccurate in his facts 
and false in his principles. But the argument was 
based on the universal doctrine that pictorial instruc- 



tion is theoretical in kind, and that artists are the 

slaves of rules. We have seen what Sir Joshua 

Reynolds thought about this. It seemed to him 

that these rules are only provisional guides for 

beginners, such as the rules which are sometimes 

given in schools ifor the composition of themes, and 

that the application of them to works of art was a 

mistake of the connoisseur. If he was right, the 

mistake made by the connoisseur was such as would 

be made by an ignorant person, if, having examined 

an Oxford prize poem, he were to infer that no 

other form of poetry is legitimate. A mistake of 

this kind is of course natural and even inevitable. 

The problem being to ascertain why a composition 

is admired which does not seem to be admirable, 

the natural explanation which offers itself is that 

there must be in it a strict conformity to some 

theory. The attack on conventionalism which Mr. 

Ruskin made was misdirected. It applies to an 

earlier species of art -critic, not to true artistic 

opinion ; for, as Guido and Sir Joshua Reynolds 

agree about the artistic view, their testimony must 

be accepted. But it was superfluous, though just, 

if applied to art-critics. The kind of criticism 

described by Reynolds is obsolete, and a new kind 

has taken its place. The connoisseur, we are told, 

as he entered the gallery and before he had recol- 



lected and begun to apply his rules, remarked that 
the boats were too little, and made some observa- 
tions of that kind which Reynolds did not think it 
worth while to record. This kind of criticism has 
since that time been developed into a system, and 
is called realism. This word, used in this sense, is 
itself a proof that the system is, as a formally recog- 
nised method, a novelty. Realism is a term which, 
until quite recently, has borne in metaphysical specu- 
lation a totally different meaning. It is evidently 
now required in artistic criticism in a new sense, 
owing to the popularity of a new system of criticism. 
I must once more introduce a quotation. A 
string of quotations makes, no doubt, a composition 
tedious ; but this cannot be helped. It is impossible 
without their assistance to make the points clear. 
I have put my view of the difference between artists 
and theorists. The latter indirectly maintain that 
painting is a kind of science, and that those who 
write on it are more likely to judge rightly than 
those who practise it. The passage which is 
appended shows that Alison had observed that a 
difference exists, but understood the question differ- 
ently. He wrote as follows in the Introduction to 
his Essay on Taste : — " The various theories of 
philosophers may, and indeed must, be included in 
the two following classes of suppositions : — 


" I. The first class is that which resolves the 
emotion of taste directly into an original law of our 
nature, which supposes a sense or senses by which 
the qualities of Beauty and Sublimity are perceived 
and felt as their appropriate objects, and concludes 
therefrom that the genuine object of the arts of Taste 
IS to discover and to imitate those qualities in every 
subject which the prescription of nature has made 
thus essentially either beautiful or sublime. To this 
class of hypotheses belong almost all the theories of 
Music, of Architecture, and of Sculpture, the theory 
of Mr. Hogarth, of the Abb^ Winkelman, and per- 
haps in its last result also the theory of Sir J. 
Reynolds. It is a species of hypothesis which is 
naturally resorted to by all artists and amateurs, 
by those whose habits of thought lead them to 
attend more to the causes of their emotions than 
to the nature of the emotions themselves. 

" 2. The second class of hypotheses arises from the 
opposite view of the subject. It is that which resists 
the idea of any new or peculiar sense distinct from 
the common principles of our nature ; which sup- 
poses some one known and acknowledged principle 
and affection of the mind to be the foundation of all 
the emotions we receive from the objects of taste, 
and which resolves, therefore, all the various phe- 
nomena into some more general law of our intel- 


lectual or moral constitution. Of this kind are the 
hypotheses of M. Diderot, who attributes all our 
emotions of this kind to the perception of relation ; 
of Mr. Hume, who resolves them all into our sense 
of utility ; of the venerable St Austin, who, with 
nobler views a thousand years ago, resolved them 
into the pleasure which belongs to the perception of 
order, design, etc. It is the species of hypothesis 
most natural to retired and philosophic minds ; to 
those whose habits have led them to attend more to 
the nature of the emotions they felt, than to the 
causes which produced them." Alison's Essay is, as 
may be supposed, intended to support the view 
which he describes as the favourite hypothesis of 
the philosophic mind. It is unfortunate for him 
that he should be obliged to admit in his introduc- 
tion that a different theory of causation is usually 
adopted by those who have most attended to the 
causes. The only comment, however, which need 
be made here on his statement is that Sir Joshua 
Reynolds did not contend that there is a " peculiar 
sense distinct from the common principles of our 
nature" by which .beauty and sublimity are per- 
ceived, but thought only that ordinary perceptions 
may be quickened by cultivation, and may operate 
more satisfactorily when free than when oppressed 
by critical rules. It may be added that although 



speculation about such questions was alien to the 
philosophy of Greece, Lucian observed that artists 
and the multitude are not at one about the mode 
in which pictures should be estimated. Zeuxis, he 
tells us, once painted a picture of a centauress with 
her cubs, of which he was vain. He determined to 
exhibit it, and invited the public to the spectacle. 
Crowds came to gaze and all applauded ; but Zeuxis 
after a time grew angry, and directed his servant to 
remove the picture and allow no one in future to 
look at it " These men," he said, *' are admiring the 
mere dregs of art, and all the real excellence is lost 
on them." oxnoi ^kp 'qfi&v top irtfSjov t^9 riyyq^; 
eirawovai,, r&v S' i<f> ortp, el tca\&<; e^et teal xarc^ 
rriv Tij(yr)v ov irdKvv iroiovvraL X070J/. Lucian gives 
what he conceives to be the explanation of Zeuxis' 
grievance. He may be right or wrong about this, 
and there may be even no truth in the story ; but it 
shows that Lucian had observed that artists and the 
multitude judge from different points of view, and 
that irritation may be excited by foolish praise as 
well as by irrelevant blame. 

There are, therefore, two views or theories about 
the nature of painting, and a dispute which is not 
found with regard to the other arts. It extends 
partially, but only partially, to statuary. The chief 
reason of this limitation is that there is in this art no 


question of colour ; another reason is that painting 
is the more popular of the two, and attracts more 
attention. Alison, describing the first class of hy- 
potheses, observes that it includes almost all the 
theories of music, architecture, and sculpture, and 
adds, without naming painting, that to it belong 
the theories of Hogarth, Winckelman, and perhaps 
Reynolds. This implies that the dispute is chiefly 
about the art of painting, and in some measure 
about sculpture. It would be a great exaggeration 
to affirm that the two factions or parties are dis- 
tinctly separated. In such matters absolute divisions 
of opinion are not found. But the tendency may be 
observed, and the two parties may be described as 
the artistic and literary. Many artists belong to the 
latter, though it is doubtful whether many litterateurs 
belong to the former. The essential characteristic 
of the literary view is that it assumes a theory or 
general principle which can stand as the major pre- 
miss of an argument. A theory on which argument 
can be based is not necessarily a universally -true 
proposition, such as are found in strict or mathema- 
tical science, but if the theory is sound, must be one 
which is ultimately trua The principle now assumed 
in criticism of painting is the realistic principle that 
the most exact imitation is the best work of art 
It is the connoisseur's remark that the boats are too 



little aggrandised into a system. This, as Reynolds 
observed, is the way the multitude judge, and as this 
method has completely vanquished the earlier type 
of criticism, there is no longer any difference between 
the connoisseur and the multitude, except that the 
former may be more confident or skilful in the use 
of words. The public are now supposed to form 
broader, safer, and juster judgments than artists, 
because it is well understood that the connoisseur 
agrees with them rather than with the artist. This 
is because it is taken for granted that a kind of 
demonstration of the qualities of pictures can be 
given, and a definite test applied. It may easily 
be observed how universal this opinion is. If one 
who is supposed to be an authority in such matters, 
having expressed an admiration of some picture, 
were asked what he found in it so admirable, and 
were to answer that the forms and colours pleased 
him, but that he could say no more about it, it is 
certain that to most this would seem a foolish 
answer, and he would probably be given to under- 
stand that he would do well in future to abstain 
from expressing opinions which he could not justify. 
If, indeed, circumlocution were called in to help him 
out of the difficulty : if he were to envelop his 
answer in phrases about aesthetic grace, plastic power, 
and subtle harmony, it might be accepted, and the 

104 NATURE OF THE FINE ARTS. [chap, il 

listener might try to think that he had learned 
something though he did not know exactly what 
But this only shows what language can effect. 
These phrases are nothing more than a roundabout 
way of saying that the forms and colours give an 
indefinite satisfaction, the nature of which cannot 
be exactly analysed. 



Though Horace first put the comparison between 
painting and poetry in such a shape as to make it 
permanent, Aristotle had anticipated him in a more 
philosophic investigation of the relation of these arts 
to each other. There are, in his Poetic Art, the 
rudiments, though only the rudiments, of a theory of 
the Fine Arts. Creative, or poetic, art was, it is 
there said, bom of the union of two tendencies which 
are innate in mankind, iol/caac Sk yevvrjaai fikv o\6>9 
Ttfv irotrjTtKfjv alrlac Svo rtve^ Kal avrac <f>V(n,KaL 
TO re yhp fiifieurOai avfu^vrov to?9 avOpmiroi,^ ix 
iralhcDv iarl, Kal TovT<p Sui<f>ipov<n r&v dWoiv ^<p(ov 
Stc fii/j/rj/cdrarov iarv xal rh^ fiaOriaei,^ Troielrav Su^ 
fiLfiTjaeoa^ t^9 Trpdra^, xal to j(alpei,v rols fiifii^fiaa-c 
irdvra^. a-fjfieiov Sk roirov to avfifialvov iirl r&v 
epymv* & yctp avrh XvirrfpA^ op&fiev rovrmv tA? 
el/cova^ T^9 fidXi^a-ra "^tcpcficDfUva^ '^alpofiev Oem- 
povvre^, otov Orjplcov re fwp^h^ r&v arifLordrmv Kal 


veKp&v. alrcov Sk xal tovtov Stc fiavOdveiv ov fiovov 
T069 ^ckoaoifHic^ r^SuTTOv aWh icaX rol^ aXXo69 OfioCa^, 
aXX' iwl Ppajfif tcovvoDvova-cv avrov, Scii yhp tovto 
j^alpova-i T^9 evKOva^; 6p&vT€<:, ore avfifiaivec OeeO" 
povvra^ /jLavOdvecv xal avWoyl^eaOa^ rl eKaarov, otov 
OTV oyT09 e/ceJj/09, iwel ictv firj r-uyrf TrpoempaKW, ouj^ 
ff filfiTjfjia iroLrfaei, r^v '^Sovrfv, aXXa Sic^ rrfv direp- 
yaa-iav fj rifv 'xpoi^v fj hi^ Totavrrjv rivh aXkffv 
alrlav. There is, Aristotle says, a double propen- 
sity in human nature, i. Man delights in imitating 
and is the most imitative of animals ; 2. He loves to 
compare things together and to observe similitudes. 
Both these statements seem to be just It has been 
said by some that imitations were first introduced as 
a kind of pictorial language, and that subsequently 
a split took place, whence on the one hand arose 
hieroglyphic writing and on the other painting and 
sculpture. But the rude essays of prehistoric man 
which have been discovered, make it probable that 
Aristotle gave the true account They seem to be 
the result of an imitative tendency, and were not 
meant for language. There is nothing unlikely in 
this. As some birds imitate sounds, and as monkeys 
imitate gestures, a further tendency to imitate forms 
might display itself in a more highly developed and 
more perfectly organised animal. But there was 
joined to this an intellectual pleasure in making 


comparisons. A proposition, which is a product of 
the understanding, is a kind of comparison. Two 
distinct ideas are in it set in relation to each other, 
and when Aristotle says that man loves to perceive 
that this one is that one, he is affirming that the 
gratification which art affords is in part an intel- 
lectual gratification. This, he says, is the explana- 
tion of the fact that a pleasure is caused by imitations 
of objects which are in themselves displeasing. The 
problem to which Aristotle here calls attention has 
ever troubled theorists, and is still unsolved. It is 
indisputable that among the most admired of works 
of art are found representations of objects and scenes 
which, as realities, would be uninteresting in some, 
and exceedingly offensive in other cases. In many 
instances the attractive quality of a work of art may 
be explained by the theory that it reminds the 
spectator of some scene or object which would be 
pleasant if beheld as a reality. This is notably the 
case with many landscapes. Natural scenery soothes 
and cheers the wanderer, and the painted landscape 
operates in the same way, though in a less degree. 
Johnson has expatiated on this topic in his Preface 
to Shakespeare, and has shown how the memory of 
pleasant hours spent under trees and by the river- 
side may be revived by the painter's art " Imita- 
tions produce pain or pleasure, not because they are 


mistaken for realities, but because they bring realities 
to mind. When the imagination is recreated by a 
painted landscape, the trees are not supposed capable 
to give us shade or the fountains coolness ; but we 
consider how we should be pleased with such foun- 
tains playing beside us, and such woods waving 
over us." Another kind of explanation is some- 
times possible. Mankind are curious to know how 
celebrated persons and places appear, and the 
painter's art gratifies this curiosity. Johnson has 
also advocated this view, and has said in one of his 
essays that Reynolds would do well to abstain from 
mythological scenes and keep to portrait painting, 
not on the ground that he was more successful in 
the latter style, but because likenesses of celebrated 
persons are interesting, while no one could care to 
know how Reynolds might imagine a scene which 
was admitted to be purely imaginary. Johnson's 
views are consistent with the realistic theory. It is 
obvious that if the sole end of the art of painting is 
to recall to the spectator's memory objects which 
have afforded him pleasure, or to put before him 
likenesses of realities which he might desire to see, 
but has no opportunity of seeing, the most exact 
representation must be the best work of art Johnson 
could put this view consistently and unhesitatingly, 
because he never admitted the existence of the Fine 


Arts as a class different from other arts, and did 
not trouble himself about the a posteriori argument. 
But those who have attended to the question cannot. 
They cannot forget such pictures as Guido's St. 
Sebastians, and such statues as the Laocoon, and 
they cannot pretend that all who have admired such 
pictures and statues have been pleasantly reminded 
of the realities which correspond. Nor can they 
easily contend that the sole test of merit in a work 
of art is the degree of resemblance of the imitation 
to the thing imitated. This is the realistic prin- 
ciple ; but when stated without disguise it deprives 
the term Fine Art of all meaning. The careful 
cabinetmaker who has made a chair or a table after 
a given pattern has satisfied this test exactly as well 
as the painter or sculptor. It leaves no distinction 
between fine art and mechanical art Yet every 
modern theory contains this principle. All theories 
come under one of two heads. They are either 
some form of the theory which Reynolds ridiculed — 
that is, are based on rules which are supposed to be 
established by academic authority — or are based on 
the principle that the most exact imitation is the 
best work of art, which principle is supposed to be 
established by common sense. The former kind of 
theory is now effete, and all contain the realistic 
principle, with the accompanying difficulties. There 


IS, indeed, an exception. Some theorists are content 
to play with words, wholly disregarding facts, and 
these encounter no difficulties. Diderot was one of 
this kind. His theory is that any perception of any 
relation produces a sense of the beautiful. "Le 
rapport en g6n6ral est une operation de Tentende- 
ment, qui consid^re soit un ^tre, soit une quality, 
en tant que cet ^tre ou cette quality suppose Texist- 
ence d'un autre 6tre, ou d'une autre quality." 
{Diciionnaire EncyclopMiquBy Le Beau.) ** Placez 
la beauts dans la perception des rapports, et vous 
aurez Thistoire de ses progr^s depuis la naissance du 
monde jusqu'aujourd'hui : choisissez pour caract^re 
differentiel du beau en g^n^ral, telle autre quality 
qu'il vous plaira, et votre notion se trouvera tout i 
coup concentric dans un point de Tespace et du 
temps." "La perception des rapports est done le 
fondement du beau : c'est done la perception des 
rapports qu'on a ddsignde dans les langues sous une 
infinite de noms diffdrents, qui tous n'indiquent que 
diflfifrentes sortes de beau." It would be superfluous 
to refute this definition of le beau^ but Diderot has 
kindly provided a refutation, in case one should be 
wanted. Before stating his paradox he elaborately 
demonstrates that a perception of utility is not the 
same as a perception of beauty, and having triumph- 
antly proved that this particular rapport does not 



produce le beaUy he goes on to affirm that any rela- 
tion of any kind suffices. Some writers had argued 
that there must be two kinds of beauty, one of which 
belongs exclusively to the Fine Arts ; but when the 
speculation which was fashionable in the eighteenth 
century had called Burke's attention to the ques- 
tion, he reproduced the Aristotelian explanation. 
Aristotle's words are the frame on which his Essay 
on Taste is constructed. He does not, it is true, 
avow this ; but he has in one place referred to the 
Poetic Art, and his words so far resemble Aristotle's 
as to make it probable that the latter was their 
origin. It must be added that he could not well 
have maintained a theory so palpably false, if he 
had not been misled by a semblance of authority. 
This essay was not an early or hasty effort It was 
written after an investigation of the Sublime and 
Beautiful had forced it on his observation that there 
was something mysterious in the charms which 
painting and sculpture possess for their votaries, and 
it is said that when he was urged subsequently to 
expand and amend it, he replied that he had done 
his utmost, and must leave it as it was. It is an 
attempt to work out Aristotle's hint, and to show 
that the realistic principle accounts for the peculiar- 
ity which Aristotle had recognised but Johnson 
Ignored. It admits that the nature of the thing 


represented cannot adequately account for the quali- 
ties of the representation, but asserts that a suf- 
ficient explanation is found in the quasi-intellectual 
gratification which is attached to the process of 
comparing two things together. This position, how- 
ever, is narrower in Burke's than in Aristotle's state- 
ment. The latter had the advantage or disadvantage 
of writing in a language which confounded repre- 
sentation and imitation under one term, and though 
his wider proposition is undoubtedly true, at least in 
part, it certainly has not the truth which was required 
for Burke's purpose, narrowed as it is in the Essay 
on Taste, He disfigured Aristotle's statement in 
another way. The latter did not profess in the 
passage quoted above to offer a complete theory of 
art as it is in a mature and fully developed condi- 
tion, but was narrating its birth only, and added the 
qualifying clause, "except workmanship, colour, or 
something of that kind." Burke omits this, and 
turns a rational and probable account into an extra- 
vagant paradox. He puts his argument as follows : — 
" But in the imagination, besides the pain or pleasure 
arising from the properties of the natural object, a 
pleasure is perceived from the resemblance which 
the imitation has to the original. The imagination, 
I conceive, can have no pleasure but what results 
from one or other of these causes." **When two 


distinct objects are unlike to each other, it is only 
what we expect : things are in their common way, 
and therefore they make no impression on the 
imagination. But when two distinct objects have a 
resemblance we are ^struck, we attend to them, and 
we are pleased." {Essay on Taste ^ p. 105, ed. 1826.) 
A moment's thought shows that Burke had bid 
adieu to common sense when he wrote this. If it 
were true that objects which are unlike other objects 
make no impression, eclipses, meteors, the aurora 
borealis would be the most uninteresting of spec- 
tacles. On the other hand, if the perception of 
resemblance is so potent as he says, a citizen of 
London, as he walks down the Strand and looks 
first at the houses on one side the street and 
then at those on the other, should be in a con- 
tinual state of ecstasy: when seated in his own 
room his enjoyment should become more intense 
as he glances first at the pattern of the paper 
on one of his walls and then on the other, and 
as he examines first one of his chairs and then 
another. Or if it should be said that in these 
instances he has been surfeited, and satiety has 
blunted his sense of delight, he ought certainly, 
according to Burke, to be flung into raptures when- 
ever he meets twin brothers, and to feel as if he 

were in the presence of a masterpiece, for the 



resemblance in this instance frequently takes the 
beholder by surprise. Nevertheless, Burke adheres 
to his theory, though he cannot avoid incessant 
self-contradiction, and gives the following illustra- 
tion : — " A man to whom sculpture is new sees a 
barber's block, or some ordinary piece of statuary ; 
he is immediately struck and pleased because he 
sees something like a human figure, and entirely 
taken up with this likeness he does not at all attend 
to its defects. No person, I believe, at the first time 
of seeing a piece of imitation ever did. Some time 
after we suppose that this novice lights upon a more 
artificial piece of work of the same nature, he now 
begins to look with contempt on what he admired 
at first, etc." (p. 1 07). This is a sample of the way 
in which Burke argues the case throughout. He 
has to prove that an increased admiration for works 
of art is the same as an increased perception of 
resemblance, and having cited instances where an 
improved faculty of detecting inaccuracy destroys 
the admiration which might otherwise be felt, assumes 
that he has made his point good. In support of this 
fallacy he urges that the term " improved taste " is 
inaccurate, and that "increased knowledge" would 
be more appropriate. ** It is from this difference in 
knowledge that what we commonly, though with no 
great exactness, call a difference in taste proceeds." 


"That the critical taste does not depend upon a 
superior principle in men, but upon superior know- 
ledge, may appear from several instances." He is 
here asserting the view which Alison said was char- 
acteristic of retired and philosophic minds.' The 
latter said that artists attribute to themselves a 
peculiar sense or senses, the existence of which is 
not recogfnised by the philosophic mind. Burke in 
like way implies that some believe in "a superior 
principle," and denies the existence of this principle. 
His theory, therefore, is the one which Alison in- 
correctly described as a theory which does not take 
into consideration the causes of the emotions, but 
investigates rather the emotions themselves. Alison 
thus described it because in his essay he made a 
futile attempt to bring music into the philosophic 
theory. The realistic theory does, in fact, erect a 
barrier between music and architecture on the one 
hand, and painting and sculpture on the other. Mr. 
H. Spencer has put forth a form of this theory in 
his Essays on Education^ and it will be seen in the 
following passage that he is unable to fortify his 
argument by an illustration taken from music or* 
architecture. "As we have above asserted, science 
is necessary, not only for the most successful pro- 
duction, but also for the full appreciation of the 
Fine Arts. In what consists the greater ability of 


a man than of a child to perceive the beauties of a 
picture, unless it is in his more extended knowledge 
of those truths in nature or life which the picture 
renders? How happens a cultivated gentleman to 
enjoy a fine poem so much more than a boor does, 
if it is not because his wider acquaintance with 
objects and actions enables him to see in the poem 
much that the boor cannot see ? And if, as is here 
so obvious, there must be some familiarity with the 
things represented before the representation can be 
appreciated, then the representation can be com- 
pletely appreciated only when the things represented 
are completely understood. The fact is that every 
additional truth which a work of art expresses gives 
an additional pleasure to the percipient mind, a 
pleasure that is missed by those ignorant of this 
truth. The more realities an artist indicates in any 
given amount of work the more faculties does he 
appeal to, and the more numerous ideas does he 
suggest, the more gratification does he afford. But 
to receive this gratification the spectator, listener, or 
reader, must know the realities which the artist has 
indicated, and to know these realities is to have that 
much science." {Education, Intellectual, Moral, and 
Physical, p. 44.) Music and architecture are, in Mr. 
H. Spencer's opinion, as appears elsewhere in his 
writings, Fine Arts as much as painting and sculp- 


ture and poetry ; and the argument which he has 
here given is instructive as showing that theories of 
art, as they are called, are only theories of the 
mimetic arts. The way in which Alison twisted 
the literary theory and the facts of the case in order 
to bring music into the " philosophic " view shall be 
described hereafter. It is a solitary and unsuccessful 
effort, and may be passed over for the present Mr. 
H. Spencer, however, is straining a point when he 
brings in poetry. John Stuart Mill was not one 
who would be disposed to underrate the claims of 
science, and he has recorded the growth of his own 
taste for poetry in a way which accords ill with 
Mr. H. Spencer's account " The result (of reading 
Wordsworth's poems) was that I gradually, but com- 
pletely, emerged from my habitual depression, and 
was never again subject to it I long continued to 
value Wordsworth less according to his intrinsic 
merits, than by the measure of what he had done 
for me. Compared with the greatest poets he may 
be, said to be the poet of unpoetical natures possessed 
of quiet and contemplative tastes. But unpoetical 
natures are precisely those which require poetic 
cultivation. This cultivation Wordsworth is much 
more fitted to give than poets who are intrinsically 
far more poets than he." (Mill's Autobiography^ p. 



Mr. H. Spencer has said elsewhere that a com- 
plete theory of the Fine Arts will not be found in 
his writings, and that he only takes such points as 
come before him from time to time in the exposition 
of his scheme of philosophy. There are, I think, 
other passages which show that he would in some 
way have modified these words if it had been 
necessary for him to discuss the Fine Arts as a 
whole. Some qualification is plainly necessary. 
Ideas and realities are often painful, and it cannot 
be universally true that the works of art. which 
indicate and suggest most realities and ideas afford 
the greatest pleasure. More of these would be sug- 
gested to a half- ruined speculator than to another 
by a picture of a rich man reduced to poverty, more 
to one whose friend had committed suicide or been 
murdered by a picture of a suicide or murder than 
to another. But it would be inexplicable, if true, 
that the gratification which art affords is enhanced 
in this way. 

As the realistic theory cannot be defended by 
Burke's principle that a perception of resemblance 
affords a mysterious pleasure, other writers have 
endeavoured to invent modifications which may give 
it plausibility. One of these is represented in the 
Laocoon of Lessing. His theory is in form, but 
only in form, of the kind to which the connoisseur of 


Sir Joshua Reynolds clung. Lessing begins by de- 
claring that the authority of the ancient Greeks 
cannot be controverted in artistic questions, and that 
the research of the beautiful was their guiding prin- 
ciple. This is nominally an appeal to artistic opinion. 
But the substance of the Laocoon is composed of a 
kind of equation between poetry on the one hand, 
and painting and statuary on the other, and as the 
possibilities of this equation are limited by the possi- 
bilities of language, the literary theory asserts itself 
in spite of his intention. Johnson took for granted, 
without arguing the question, that painters should 
imitate only pleasing or interesting objects. Less- 
ing's theory is the same, with the difference that he 
insists more on the necessity of selecting such objects 
as may be called beautiful, ix, the forms and colours 
of which are pleasing. It is the same theory, but 
put more ambiguously, and put in this shape it has 
been often cited as a wise and profound saying. Its 
chief superiority over Johnson's is, in truth, that it 
has less meaning. Infinite confusion has arisen in 
artistic speculation from an inaccurate use of the 
epithet " beautiful." The word is primarily applied 
to forms and colours. I do not mean that this is 
the etymological meaning, for it is said to be derived 
from bene. But in common use the* strict meaning 
of it is a combination of forms or colours which 


pleases. We can even speak of an isolated colour 
as beautiful, though one musical sound by itself 
would be called pleasing rather than beautiful. It is 
then employed metaphorically of other combinations 
which please in other ways. A piece of music, a 
poem, or even a scientific demonstration, may be 
called beautiful. But the use of the word is figurative 
in these instances, though so common as to have 
almost ceased to be figurative. Lessing in his argu- 
ment first employs it in the literal sense, passing over 
the fact that scenes and objects cannot be classified 
as beautiful and ugly. Diderot discussing the theory 
of Batteux, who composed an essay called Les Arts 
riduits d un mime Principe^ observed " M. L'Abb^ 
Batteux rappelle tons les principes des Beaux Arts i 
rimitation de la belle nature, mais il ne nous apprend 
pas ce que c'est la belle nature." ("Le Beau," p. 445.) 
This objection applies to Lessing. But he extricates 
himself by that fertile cause of fallacy, the use of 
abstract instead of concrete terms. ** Die Malerei," he 
says, "als nachahmende Fertigkeit kann die Hass- 
lichkeit ausdriicken : die Malerei, als schone Kunst, 
will sie nicht ausdriicken. Als jener gehoren ihr 
alle sichtbaren Gegenstande zu : als dieser schliesst 
sie sich nur auf diejenigen Gegenstande ein, welche 
angenehme Empfindungen erwecken." {Laocoony chap, 
xxiv.) It sounds reasonable to say that the artist 


must not express ugliness ; but it is not practicable to 
arrange objects in composite scenes so that all which 
may be called ugly shall be excluded. This may, 
perhaps, be accomplished in portrait painting, and 
the absurdity of the] result is here evident No one 
would call the old men and women whom Rembrandt 
painted beautiful, and all, or almost all, Rembrandt's 
portraits would be rejected from the list of works of 
Fine Art if Lessing's definition were accepted. In 
like manner, if the general impression produced by a 
scene is taken as the test, Rembrandt's picture of 
the Anatomical School would be excluded. Any 
one who had just quitted a dissection would be 
thought insane if he were to comment on the beauty 
and the charm of the spectacle, and, according to 
Lessing, this picture does not come under the cate- 
gory of Fine Art He would, apparently, not shrink 
from this result The modem artist is, in his opinion, 
depraved in his tastes, and we must revert to ancient 
Greece to find human nature immaculate. Yet, even 
ancient Greece, he says, was not quite faultless. It 
had its Pauson and its Pireicus, who turned aside 
from the pursuit of the beautiful. But Pauson, he 
adds, was rightly punished for his depravity. He 
lived despised, and died in poverty and contempt 
Those who have read Lessing's biography will see 
here a singular illustration of the sway which a pet 


theory exercises on its owner. He spent the earlier 
part of his life in protesting against the doctrine that 
worldly success can be taken as a criterion of merit, 
or that a scholar should be diverted from his pursuits 
by mercenary considerations ; but because this poor 
painter neglected the path which might have led to 
fame and riches, to follow the bent of his own genius, 
Lessing exults ferociously at the thought of his failure. 
But Lessing was perverting history. He took for 
granted that a Pauson whom Aristophanes names 
was Pauson the painter, a conjecture which nothing 
supports. Both Lucian and Aristotle speak of the 
painter in a way which makes it probable that he 
was successful. It is allowed by all that Pireicus 
was famous and wealthy. But scanty as our know- 
ledge of Greek painting is, other cases may be found 
which refute Lessing, and are omitted by him. 
Lucian, in the Dialogue on Calumny^ has left a de- 
scription of a picture by Apelles, in which the prin- 
cipal figure was one of Envy, personified as a man 
pallid and hideous, iy^o^ KaX a/jLop(f)o^y who advances 
to address another with monstrous ears. Lessing 
might say that the Greeks would not have counted 
this as a work of art But where is the evidence ? 
Again, in the famous series which Polygnotus painted 
in the Lesche at Delphi, there was, Pausanias tells 
us, a demon of a bluish- black colour, like that of a 


blue-bottle fly, who displayed his teeth. How would 
Lessing get over this ? Would the grinning demon 
suffice to condemn the composition, or would it be 
all a work of art with the exception of the demon ? 
Lessing's strange obliviousness of the plainest facts 
is remarkably illustrated in the following passage : — 
" Der Dichter der die Elemente der Schonheit nur nach 
einander zeigen konnte, enthalt sich daher der Schil- 
derung korperlicher Schonheit, alsSchonheit,ganzlich. 
Er fiihit es dass diese Elemente, nach einander geord- 
net, unmoglich die Wirkung haben konnen, die sie, 
neben einander geordnet, haben : dass der concentrir- 
ende Blick, den wir nach einer Enumeration auf sie 
zugleich zurlick senden woUen, uns doch kein ubereins- 
timmendes Bild gewahret, dass es iiber die mensch- 
liche Einbildung gehet sich vorzustellen was dieser 
Mund, und diese Nase, und diese Augen zusammen 
fur einen Effect haben, weun Man sich nicht aus der 
Natur Oder Kunst einer ahnlichen Composition sol- 
cher Theile erinnem kann." {Sdmmtliche Werke, 
1824, ch. XX., vol. iii., p. 212.) It is impossible 
to put two interpretations on this passage. Lessing 
declares that the reason why a description in words 
of the human countenance is less effective than a 
painted likeness is that in the former case an effort 
of memory and imagination is required which trans- 
cends human ability. The mouth, the nose, the eyes. 



are described separately, and the imagination fails to 
reunite the separate items. The truth of this can 
be easily tested. All which human ingenuity can 
effect in the way of describing the human countenance 
has been done by police agents, when it was usual 
to append descriptions to passports. If an agent 
had been endeavouring to verify such a description 
in the presence of a suspected traveller, what would 
have been his answer, if Lessing had explained to 
him that the feebleness of his memory and imagina- 
tion was the sole cause of the difficulty, and that if 
he would verify the mouth, the nose, and the eyes, 
successively, the truth could be established as per- 
fectly as by a well-painted portrait ? It is manifest 
that this point of which Lessing makes so much is a 
minor and secondary one. The poet often describes 
the complexion of his mistress as whiter than snow ; 
compares the blue of her eyes to the blue of the sky, 
her hair to gold or the plumage of the raven, and 
adds that roses bloom in her cheeks. It is easy to 
remember these details and imagine the union of 
them ; the objection is, that they produce a monster 
when remembered and united. The proposition, 
moreover, with which Lessing begins, is as false as 
the explanation which he adds. The poet is not 
wholly precluded from physical beauty. Every 
thought and feeling which can be clothed in language 


is the property of the poet, physical beauty among 
them. He inserts the words als Schbnheit. But 
physical beauty is not excluded in itself more than 
any other quality. All the world has admired 
Dante's description of the distant bell which seems 
to lament the dying day, which Gray purloined, and 
physical beauty belongs to poetry in the sense in 
which sound belongs to it. The amorous poetry of 
every age would be robbed of three-fourths of its 
contents if physical beauty were taken away. But 
Lessing's misstatements are no incidental blot in 
the Laocoon. They are the logical results of a de- 
termination to frame a scientific equation, where an 
exact analysis is impossible. 

The earlier essayists stated their case and their 
arguments plainly and failed in consequence. Their 
speculations have amused their occasional readers ; 
but every one has divined that they are only displays 
of dialectical ingenuity, and they have produced little 
practical result The realistic or philosophic theory 
has since been taught by experience, and, conscious 
that it cannot stand alone, has summoned the artifices 
of rhetoric to support it Lessing was satisfied with 
a brief declaration that there is a base propensity in 
artists ; but this point has in more recent writings 
become more prominent and been put more plausibly. 
The art -critic has now his own school, and affirms 


that his proUgh and their works are more honest 
and noble and conscientious than others. The word 
conscience has no meaning except in connexion with 
a mental conflict A person who always follows his 
own inclinations is not said to be conscientious, 
however virtuous his inclinations may be. When 
an artist is commended as conscientious it is implied 
that he has fought against and overcome some pro- 
pensity. The propensity in question may be the 
almost universal propensity to indolence ; and, doubt- 
less, it may be a merit in an artist, as in any one 
else, to overcome this. But the only way in which 
a critic can judge about this is by an examination of 
the work in order to see whether much labour has 
been spent on it A great deal of the writing which 
passes for art- criticism is made up in this way. 
Works are often condemned as slight, and others 
are praised on the score that there is in them evi- 
dence of care and labour. Such criticism is not 
applied to poetry. The presumption is rather against 
the poem, which is manifestly laboured. This kind 
of criticism, therefore, though not uncommon, needs 
some disguise. It too obviously leaves no distinc- 
tion between the artist and the painstaking or con- 
scientious artisan who makes chairs and tables. 
The propensity, accordingly, which the realistic 
artist overcomes is understood to be in part this 


universal tendency to indolence, and in part a 
tendency to a vicious conventionalism, and in this 
manner his superior moral status is affirmed without 
too plain a negation of the characteristics of his 
pursuit. The question then obtrudes itself, why and 
how the practice of painting (for this is the art 
chiefly affected) should generate in artists corrupt 
propensities which can only be overcome by a 
virtuous self-denial ? why they, if left to their own 
instincts, and deprived of the lamp of the art-critic, 
should be always wandering and deserting the right 
path ? It would seem that Mr. Ruskin, after he had 
composed his Modem Painters^ was perplexed by 
this phenomenon, for he added a kind of explana- 
tion. Sir Joshua Reynolds advised the artist to 
generalise the forms of his foliage. This is down- 
right heresy in the philosophic theory, and the 
question naturally offered itself, how Sir Joshua 
could have fallen into it. Mr. Ruskin gave a 
quasi -explanation in these terms: — **Is it to be 
supposed that the distinctions of the vegetable world 
are less complete, less essential, or less divine in 
origin, than those of the animal ? If the distinctive 
forms of animal life are meant for our reverent 
observance, is it likely that those of vegetable life 
are made merely to be swept away?" This implies 
that the propensities of the "conventional" artist 


are connected with a want of piety ; but this is not 
satisfactory, for it does not show why Sir Joshua 
should only display this irreverent tendency in deal- 
ing with landscape. Would Mr. Ruskin admit that 
the practice of landscape painting is for some un- 
known reason specially apt to engender irreverence, 
and that portrait and figure painting do not have 
a similar effect? The only other clue which can 
be discovered is in a note about Sir George Beau- 
mont, who has been made immortal by the unhappy 
question, "Where do you put your brown tree?" 
and the still more disastrous assertion that a land- 
scape ought to resemble an old fiddle in general colour. 
"Sir G. Beaumont," Mr. Ruskin says, "furnishes in 
the anecdotes given of him in Constable's Life a 
melancholy instance of the degradation into which 
the human mind may fall when it suffers human 
works to interfere between it and its master." These 
passages are in the Preface to the second edition, 
and they indicate that Mr. Ruskin felt a difficulty 
about the hypothesis which his argument demanded. 
It is, I believe, understood that he has ' withdrawn 
them ; but it is not sufficient to withdraw them and 
put nothing in their place. His theory crumbles to 
pieces if he cannot explain the phenomenon which 
he admits, and give some rational account of the 
conventionalisms which he attacks, and which are 


typified in the statements of Sir J. Reynolds and 
Sir G. Beaumont The note on the latter shows 
where Mr. Ruskin's theory lands him. The expres- 
sion ** to suffer human works to interfere between it 
and its master" is, as the context shows, a meta- 
phorical description of the practice of collecting and 
studying pictures. Mr. Ruskin is an iconoclastic art- 
teacher, who affirms that a taste for pictures produces 
a degradation of the human mind. 

Alison in his Essay on Taste has explained how 
it is that artists corrupt the arts, and has given his 
explanation with much clearness and a courageous 
defiance of history worthy of a better cause. Their 
excessive vanity is the root of the evil, and the lash 
of the critic is wanted to repress this foible. " How- 
ever obvious or important the principle which I have 
now stated may be {ix, that it is wrong to sacrifice 
the beauty of character or expression to the meaner 
and less permanent beauty which may arise from a 
display of skill), the Fine Arts have been unfortu- 
nately governed by a very different principle, and the 
undue preference which artists are naturally disposed 
to give to the display of design has been one of the 
most powerful causes of that decline and degeneracy 
which has uniformly marked the history of the Fine 
Arts, after they have arrived at a certain period of 

perfection. To a common spectator the great test 



of excellence in beautiful forms is character or ex- 
pression, or, in other words, the appearance of some 
interesting or affecting quality in the form itself 
To the artist, on the other hand, the great test of 
excellence is skill ; the production of something new 
in point of design, or difficult in point of execution. 
It is by the expression of character, therefore, that 
the generality of men determine the beauty of forms. 
It is by the expression of design that the artist 
determines it When, therefore, the arts which are 
conversant in the beauty of form have attained to 
that fortunate stage of their progress — when this 
expression of character is itself the great expression 
of design — ^the invention and taste of the artist take, 
almost necessarily, a different direction. When his 
excellence can no longer be distinguished by the 
production of merely beautiful or expressive form^ 
he is naturally led to distinguish it by the produc- 
tion of what is uncommon or difficult ; to signalise 
his work by the fertility of his invention, or the 
dexterity of his execution, and thus gradually to 
forget the end of his art in his attention to display 
his superiority in the art itself While the artist 
thus insensibly deviates from the true principles of 
composition, other causes tend also unfortunately to 
mislead the taste of the public. In the mechanical 
arts, whose object is utility, this utility is itself the 


principle by which we determine the perfection of 
every production. Utility, however, is a permanent 
principle, and necessarily renders our opinion of this 
perfection as permanent. In the Fine Arts, whose 
object is beauty, it is by its effect upon our imagina- 
tion alone that we determine the excellence of any 
production. There is no quality, however, which has 
a more powerful effect upon our imagination than 
novelty. The taste of the generality of mankind, 
therefore, very naturally falls in with the invention 
of the artist, and is gratified by that continued 
novelty which the art affords it. In the mechanical 
arts, which are directed to general utility, all men 
are in some measure judges of the excellence of 
their productions, because they are in some measure 
judges of this utility. But in the Fine Arts, which 
seem to require peculiar talents, and which require, 
at least, talents that are not generally exerted, all 
men neither are, nor conceive themselves to be, 
judges. They willingly, therefore, submit their 
opinions to the guidance of those who, by their 
practice in these arts, appear very naturally the 
most competent to judge with regard to their beauty; 
and while the arts amuse them with perpetual novelty, 
very readily take for granted that what is new is also 
beautiful. By these means ; by the preference which 
artists are so naturally disposed to give to the ex- 


pression of design above the expression of character ; 
by the nature of these arts themselves which afford 
no permanent principle of judging ; and by the dis- 
position of men in general to submit their opinions 
to the opinions of those who have the strongest 
propensity and the greatest interest in their corrup- 
tion, have the arts of taste in every country, after 
a certain period of perfection, degenerated into the 
mere expressions of the skill and execution of the 
artist, and gradually sunk into a state of barbarity 
almost as great as that from which they first arose." 
{Alison^ vol. ii., p. no, ed. 1825.) The lamentable 
readiness of the public to submit their opinions to 
those of artists who " have the strongest propensity 
and the greatest interest in the corruption of the 
arts " has been, since Alison's day, in some measure 
corrected, and it is understood now that the handler 
of the pen, and not the handler of the pencil, is the 
true authority. But the regeneration of the arts is 
still not quite accomplished, and some even now are 
found who think that the proverb cuique in sud arte 
credendum may hold good in painting as in other 
matters. Those who think this have a right to 
demand some better explanation than Alison has 
given of the exception in which they are expected 
to believe, and of the strange and unfortunate cir- 
cumstance that there must be artists for the produc- 


tion of works of art, and yet that the artist, if he is 
not constantly checked, will do all that he can to 
degrade the arts. Lessing gave this same explana- 
tion of artistic degeneracy. The artist, he said, is 
greedy of praise, and neglects the beautiful in order 
that his skill may be admired. But Lessing did 
not expand his theory as Alison has done, and 
did not explain why or how the artist could best 
secure the praise which he covets by neglecting the 
beautiful. The beautiful is the difficult, ^^aXcTri rk 
KoXd, in the Greek proverb. Why should the artist 
neglect the difficult and accomplish the easy if he 
desires to be admired ? We know, and Lessing 
must have known, that history answers him. Phidias 
did not neglect the beautiful, and the honour which 
Phidias received from his contemporaries might have 
satisfied the most inordinate appetite. But Alison 
built his theory on a false account of the birth of 
the arts, and in this way gave it an apparent con- 
sistency. The passage which has been quoted had 
been preceded by the following statement : — " In the 
infancy of society, when art was first cultivated, and 
the attention of men first directed to works of -design, 
it is natural to imagine that such forms would be 
employed in those arts which were intended to 
please as were most strongly expressive of design 
or skill." Here Alison assumes that the arts of 


design came into existence as arts which were in- 
tended to please. It is true that the bare rudiments 
may have had such an origin in the sense that the 
inventor meant to amuse himself. The designs of 
prehistoric man seem to be of this kind. But it is 
untrue in Alison's sense. The early Greek statues 
were made in honour of the Gods, and the early 
Italian pictures were painted in honour of the Saints, 
and were intended to kindle the devotion and con- 
firm the faith of the spectator, not simply to please 
him. Although, therefore, it may be "natural to 
imagine that such forms would be employed as were 
most strongly expressive of design or skill," history 
forbids this pleasure of the imagination. " This," he 
goes on to say, " would take place from two causes. 
I. From their ignorance of those more interesting 
qualities which such productions might express, and 
which the advancement of the arts could alone un- 
fold. 2. From the peculiar value which design or 
art itself, in such periods, possessed, and the conse- 
quent admiration which it raised." The ignorance 
of these " more interesting qualities " (viz. the sanctity 
of the Gods and Saints) did not exist, and the minds 
of the spectators were, like the mind of an Italian 
peasant at the present day, occupied with devout 
thoughts in the presence of the image or statue, and 
attached no " peculiar value " to the art or design. 


On this unstable foundation, however, Alison con- 
structs his edifice. " When," he proceeds, " any art 
was first discovered among a rude people, the cir- 
cumstance that would most strongly affect them 
would be the art itself, and the design or skill which 
it exhibited — the real capabilities or consequences of 
the art they must be ignorant of. What the artist 
would value himself on would be the production of 
a work of skill. What the spectator would admire 
would be the invention or ingenuity of the workman 
who was capable of imagining and executing such a 
work. What the workman, therefore, would study 
would be to give his work as full and complete an 
expression of this skill or design as he could." 
{Alison^ vol. ii., p. 69.) 

The facts are inverted in this account Though 
the oddities of the Pre-Raphaelite painters were, 
probably for the most part, simply the result of a 
want of skill, the name given rightly indicates the 
theory which justified them. The movement was 
avowedly retrograde, and an attempt to restore 
painting to the condition in which it was before 
painters had corrupted it The principle against 
which Pre-Raphaelite art was a protest was this one 
which, according to Alison, prevailed in the early 
period. Undoubtedly, as regards the historical facts, 
those who gave the name Pre-Raphaelite were right. 


and Alison is wrong. The more interesting quali- 
ties, as he calls them, are supreme in the first period, 
and the artistic considerations come later. But it 
was only by some such perversion as this that he 
could make his theory hold together, for it would 
otherwise have been incumbent on him to explain 
why artists allow the arts to progress up to a certain 
point, and then begin to pervert them. There is, 
according to him, no change in the artistic nature. 
It is from the beginning to the end made up of pure 
undiluted vanity; but the multitude, which is dazzled 
and therefore captivated, as Macaulay would say, by 
novelty, gives a fatal turn to this vanity after a 
certain time. We return, accordingly, to the three- 
fold division of opinion in Alison's theory. The 
handler of the pen alone is trustworthy. Finally, 
the arts decay in a mysterious manner. The decay 
of the arts in Greece means principally, though not 
exclusively, that after a time Greek artists ceased to 
produce statues so excellent as had been produced 
in the previous period. The decay of the arts in 
mediaeval Italy means that after a time such artists 
as Raphael, Michael Angelo, and Titian, were not 
found. This happened, according to Alison, because 
in Greece all sculptors were the equals of Phidias ; 
all painters in Italy the equals of Raphael, Michael 
Angelo, and Titian. An excess of food caused a 


famine ; a superabundance of water caused a 

The theory of mimetic art (commonly called Fine 
Art) is one and the same everywhere. Its principle 
is that the most exact imitation is the greatest work 
of art. This theory ends inevitably in some absurd- 
ity, because it is an attempt to account for a pheno- 
menon by a denial that the phenomenon exists. 
The phenomenon to be explained is that painting 
and sculpture are Fine Arts. They are reduced to 
the status of mechanical arts, when the only merit 
which is allowed them is accuracy of imitation. But 
it will be said that there must be some other prin- 
ciple, and that all the speculative writers who have 
directly said or indirectly implied that theoretical 
discussion and criticism are possible, must have some 
profounder theory than this. Dogmatical treatment 
must not be confounded with theoretical treatment. 
Any one can dogmatise. But whenever it is ad- 
mitted that criticism is dogmatical, credentials are 
needed. The lectures of Sir Joshua Reynolds are, 
in great part, avowedly dogmatical. His opinion 
was not disguised that artists of eminence, himself 
among them, have a right to say what they think, 
and that those whose experience is less would do 
well to listen deferentially. But if a critic cannot 
produce testimonials such as Reynolds could show, 


his words can have little value if they are nothing 
more than confident expressions of opinion. In 
fact, however, critics do not admit that they are 
only dogmatising when they write about pictures. 
Their criticism is, or claims to be, rational or argu- 
mentative. When Mr. Ruskin attacked a certain 
number of so-called classical landscape painters, he 
offered a kind of argument, and his writings would 
have attracted little attention if he had simply said 
that he disliked these painters. The argument con- 
tained one fallacy which may be summarily dismissed. 
He examined the works of the artists to which he 
objected with a view to the discovery of every pos- 
sible error ; described these errors with much ex- 
aggeration of language ; and assumed that he had 
made his case good. Such a method as this is too 
convenient to be legitimate. If the plays of Shake- 
speare are ransacked with a view to the discovery of 
every blemish or flaw in the language or plot — if 
every fault is catalogued, and every merit ignored — 
if, then, Shakespeare is taken to represent the 
Romantic Drama, it is easy to prove that the 
Romantic Drama is vicious, and that Shakespeare 
is the shocking example. But as it is impossible 
to wade through all which has been written about 
the principles of so-called Fine Art, in order to show 
that there is in it only one principle (viz. the real- 


istic), a different method must be adopted to settle 
this point Let the writings of any author of repute, 
which have any bearing on questions of this kind, 
be examined in order to find some principle which 
can in any way be applied, so as to frame an argu- 
ment. There is no English author whose works 
better answer to this description than Mr. Herbert 
Spencer's. I am, however, tolerably confident that 
the most general proposition of the kind required 
which can be found in his writings is the proposition 
that variety is agreeable. This, in his argument, 
illustrates the connexion between psychology and 
physiology. Moderate nervous exercise is, like 
moderate muscular exercise, pleasant ; exercise 
continued till fatigue supervenes causes discomfort. 
But when this principle — ^that variety is agreeable — is 
made the basis of a theory of art, it turns out to be 
a failure. It was part of the obsolete theory of Sir 
Joshua's connoisseur, and was Hogarth's theory, 
which has also passed away. Alison, upholding 
the "philosophic" theory, was obliged to dispute 
Hogarth's, and spoke of it as follows : — " The con- 
clusions seem to lead to a very different rule for the 
compositions of beautiful forms from that which Mr, 
Hogarth has laid down in his Analysis of Beauty. 
*The way,' he says, *of composing pleasing forms 
is to be accomplished by making choice of variety 


of lines as to their shapes and dimensions, and then, 
again, by varying their situations with each other by 
all the different ways that can be conceived, and at 
the same time (if a solid figure be the subject of the 
composition) the contents or space that is to be 
enclosed within those lines must be duly considered 
and varied too, as much as is possible with pro- 
priety/ " {AlisoUy vol. ii., p. 36.) The saving clause, 
"as much as is possible with propriety," destroys 
the whole value of the theory. This is, perhaps, 
more evident in architecture than in painting. If 
the theory were worth anything, it would be an im- 
provement in the nave of a cathedral if every suc- 
cessive column and arch differed, not only from those 
which stand beside it, but also from those which are 
opposite ; and a room in which no two walls were 
parallel, and no two angles of equal magnitude, 
would be superior to a symmetrically-shaped room. 
Though it is not necessary that the proposition on 
which a theory is founded should have the universal 
truth of an axiom of Euclid, it must, if the theory is 
sound, be ultimately true. The principle on which 
political economy is based is that every one seeks 
his own interest. No one denies that there are ex- 
ceptions, and that philanthropy, conservative preju- 
dice, indolence, or other motives may interfere. But 
those who believe in political economy maintain that 


ultimately the egoistic motive asserts itself and 
triumphs. Those who deny this deny the claims 
of political economy to be considered a science. 
The principle that variety is agreeable is true, but 
has not the triumphant truth which a theory re- 
quires. It cannot be made the premiss of an 
argument, and consequently cannot form a theory. 
But, besides this, the only principle which can be 
found is the general proposition that the most exact 
imitation is the best work of art. 



If it is granted that there is even a modicum of 
truth in the description of the two theories — the 
literary and the artistic — which has been given 
above, it will be allowed that the two parties fight 
on unequal terms. The one wields that all potent 
weapon, the pen ; the other makes a half inarticulate 
protest. The artist when he attempts to argue his 
case is of necessity a traitor to his own party, and 
has put on the colours of the adversary. The ridi- 
cule which Reynolds cast on the theory of the 
flowing line was intended for Hogarth, as true, and 
perhaps as great, an artist as himself. But Hogarth 
the painter was not Hogarth the littirateuTy and his 
pictures prove that when his brush was in his hand 
he forgot his theory, and did not trouble himself 
about the flowing line. As the art of music is not 
an art of representation, the literary theory could not 
make so good a fight when it opposed the develop- 


ment of instrumental music ; but reiterated assertions 
always tell at last, and there has been of late a resus- 
citation of the view for which Steele and Addison 
contended, and which for a time the composers of 
the eighteenth century overcame. Wagner's is the 
great name which is cited in support of the literary 
theory at the present day ; but when Wagner's name 
is cited, it is well to remember that as Hogarth the 
painter was not Hogarth the ** speculatist " (as John- 
son would have called him), so Wagner the com- 
poser and Wagner the speculatist are not necessarily 
one. The argument which has been put without 
any disguise about the advance of music is that as 
the sonatas of Beethoven, and above all the later 
sonatas, produce on those who listen to them the 
effect which is produced by a fine poem, the cul- 
minating point of music must be the union of poetry 
and music. It is creditable to the vitality of the 
literary theory that such a non-sequitur should pass 
for an argument. If a name for this theory were 
invented to correspond to the name Pre-Raphaelite 
in painting, it should be called Pre-Bachian or Pre- 
Handelian ; for Bach and Handel began the revolu- 
tion of opinion which the work of Beethoven com- 
pleted, and first silenced the enemy who sought to 
oppose the progress which music was making. 
There may be many who are attracted by a com- 


bination of verse and music, who find little to gratify 
them in music alone ; but it does not need much 
observation or thought to see that when poetry and 
music unite, each art must sacrifice something. It 
is allowed by all that at present Beethoven is king, 
and that his compositions are unrivalled ; while none 
can say that the libretti of operas and oratorios are 
excellent specimens of poetry. But as Alison alone 
has attempted to argue the case at length, we will 
see what he has to say. 

This is his introductory statement " If I am 
not mistaken, the real extent of musical expression 
coincides in a great degree with this account of it 
The signs in the human voice are general sounds. 
They express particular classes of passion or emo- 
tion, but they do not express any particular passion. 
If we had no other means of intercourse or informa- 
tion, we might from such signs infer that the person 
was elevated or depressed, gay or solemn, cheerful 
or plaintive, joyous or sad ; but we could not, I 
think, infer what was the particular passion which 
produced these expressions. Music, which can avail 
itself of these signs only, can express nothing more 
particular than the signs themselves. It will be 
found, accordingly, that it is within this limit that 
musical expression is really confined ; that such 
classes of emotion it can perfectly express, but that 


when it goes beyond this limit it ceases to be either 
expressive or beautiful." (Vol. i., p. 262.) 

With one exception, nothing can be clearer or 
more consistent than this statement But having 
said that music cannot go beyond a certain limit, 
Alison is illogical when he adds that, if it does go 
beyond this limit, it ceases to be beautiful or ex- 
pressive. Granting that two and two cannot make 
five, it is nonsense to add that two is a compara- 
tively useless number when added to itself it does 
make five. Nevertheless this little logical escapade 
was absolutely necessary for his purpose. The 
literary principle is that the most perfect imitation 
is the greatest work of art. In Greek this can be 
applied to music without any change of words, but 
in modem language representation must be sub- 
stituted for imitation. The principle applied to 
music must be that the most perfect representation 
is the greatest work of art Having, accordingly, 
begun by saying that music can only represent 
classes of feeling, and cannot indicate particular 
passions, the logical inference in the literary theory 
would be that music is a worthless art. But the 
essay was written solely because in Alison's time it 
had become manifest that music is an important art, 
and some explanation was required of this fact It 

was therefore necessary for him to contradict himself 



in some way. Having done this, he sails in smooth 
waters, eluding the difficulty by a quotation from 
Beattie. " The general emotion," he continues, *' of 
gaiety, elevation, solemnity, melancholy, or sadness, 
it is found every day to express, and with regard to 
such general expressions there is never any mistake ; 
but when it attempts to go farther — ^when it attempts 
to express particular passions : ambition, fortitude, 
pity, love, gratitude, etc. — it either fails altogether 
in its effect, or is obliged to have recourse to the 
assistance of words, to render it intelligible. ' It is 
in general true,' says Dr. Beattie, * that poetry is the 
most immediate and the most accurate interpreter of 
music. Without this auxiliary, a piece of the best 
music, heard for the first time, might be said to 
mean something, but we should not be able to say 
what. It might incline the heart to sensibility, but 
poetry or language would be necessary to improve 
that sensibility into a real emotion, by fixing the 
fancy upon some definite and affecting ideas. A 
fine instrumental symphony well performed is like 
an oration delivered with propriety but in an un- 
known tongue : it may affect us a little, but conveys 
no determinate feeling. We are alarmed, perhaps, 
or melted or soothed, but very imperfectly, because 
we know not why. The singer, by taking up the 
same air, and applying words to it, immediately 


translates the oration into our own language. Then 
all uncertainty vanishes, the fancy is filled with 
determinate ideas, and determinate emotions take 
possession of the heart.' " This passage quoted from 
Beattie contains what Alison wished to say, but did 
not dare to say in his own words. He knew that 
his essay was composed because it was no longer 
possible to affirm that instrumental music can only 
" incline the heart to sensibility," and that words are 
necessary " to improve that sensibility into a real 
emotion." But the principle which he had under- 
taken to establish was that which is implied in 
Beattie's antithesis, "may affect us a little, but 
conveys no determinate feeling." He was resolved 
to assert that whatever conveys no determinate 
feeling is worthless in art, and it was incumbent 
on him to escape in some way from his own admis- 
sions and the obvious truth. He therefore got over 
the difficulty by quoting Beattie for the position 
which he required, denying the phenomenon of 
which his essay was a professed explanation. Having 
thus obtained what he wanted, he proceeds to argue 
the case on the assumption that music can and 
cannot express particular passions or feelings. The 
following passage is a sample of his method : — " If 
the Passion of Revenge, for instance, were expressed 
by the most beautiful composition of sounds con- 


ceivable, which either naturally or from habit were 
considered as expressive of tenderness, every man, 
instead of being affected with its beauty, would laugh 
at its absurdity." (Vol. i., p. 282.) Having already 
said that music cannot express a particular passion, 
such as revenge, he would not, if he were consistent, 
put this case. But the case being taken as it stands, 
what he says is untrue. Every man would laugh, if 
he laughed at all, at the folly of the composer who 
chose to spoil both the poetry and the music by an 
incongruous combination, but the absurdity would 
not belong to the music more than the words. 
Alison ends his argument with the words, "There 
cannot well be a stronger proof that the beauty or 
sublimity of music arises from the qualities which it 
expresses, and not from the means by which they 
are expressed." Perhaps he is right in this, but if 
so, his theory demands no further refutation. 

We may pass now to the other side of the ques- 
tion and examine the artistic or anti-literary theory. 
It is, as put by Guido and Sir Joshua Reynolds, 
negative in kind. Artists deny the application of 
rules — the rule that the most exact imitation or 
representation is the greatest work of art — among 
them. The accusations made by the other side are 
various, though they generally take the shape of a 
sweeping charge that artists, as represented by 


Academicians, are full of prejudices. These arise, in 
the theories of Lessing and Alison and many other 
writers, from vanity, and the extreme desire of the 
artist to obtain applause. On the one hand, it is 
said, the more interesting qualities of the object 
which is represented are admired — this is the legitimate 
kind of beauty ; on the other, the skill of the artist — 
this is the meaner beauty, and the artist is desirous 
that this meaner beauty should monopolise the 
spectator's attention. It would have been well if 
Alison had explained why, when mankind discuss 
works of art, they conspire to misuse words with the 
meaning of which they are familiar ; or why, if they 
do not misuse words, they should make a mistake 
about the nature of their own feelings which they do 
not ordinarily make. In every case, except in works 
of art, it is allowed that an admiration of skill and 
an admiration of beauty are distinct. When a 
natural object — a beautiful face or a beautiful land- 
scape — is admired, no one objects that a mistake 
has occurred, and that the spectator is in reality 
admiring the skill of the maker. Some, indeed, may 
have said that the perfect skill of the maker of all 
things ought to. be admired rather than the product ; 
but it is not said that in point of fact there is a 
mistake. If, therefore, we waive for the moment 
the question whether artistic quality is or not a 


meaner beauty, it must be granted that there is a 
singular misapprehension prevalent, if it lies in an 
exhibition of skill. It is, moreover, a proof that 
Burke had reflected more deeply than Alison on 
this, that the former did not endeavour to give this 
explanation. Undoubtedly, the Aristotelian ex- 
planation which he substituted is equally false and 
more paradoxical ; but this alone shows that Burke 
felt it impossible to fall back on the doctrine that 
the skill of the artist is admired. It must have 
occurred to him. To recur to an illustration given 
above, if one who had expressed an admiration for 
Rembrandt's picture of the anatomical school were 
asked why he admired so disagreeable a subject, the 
answer usually given would undoubtedly be, that he 
admired the skill of the artist in spite of the subject. 
The natural inference is the one which Alison draws, 
that the vanity of artists corrupts the arts. But 
though many who have gazed with admiration on 
this picture might give this explanation, it does not 
follow that it is the true one. The truth finds its 
way out in impulsive expressions rather than in 
after-thoughts which come when a reason is demanded. 
How fine! is the natural exclamation, not How 
clever! Again, if a visitor at some strange place 
were invited to make an excursion to see a beautiful 
scene, and were shown at the end of his journey a 


half-ruined cottage, with an old woman seated in the 
doorway, he would think that he had been made the 
victim of a practical joke. The same person, if he 
found hanging on the wall of the room a well-painted 
picture of the same scene, might exclaim. How 
charming ! Here too, if pressed to explain why he 
thought the representation charming, though he found 
no beauty in the reality, he might say that he ad- 
mired the skill of the artist But, if so, why should 
the words " how charming " rise to his lips, rather 
than **how clever"? The admiration of skill is a 
distinct feeling. The feats of the pickpocket and 
the swindler sometimes excite it in a high degree ; 
but no one falls into the error of calling their con- 
duct fine or charming. It is not likely that such a 
mistake should be made elsewhere. The solution, 
however, of the qualities of works of art into the 
more interesting qualities of the object, on the one 
hand, and the meaner quality of skill, on the other, 
is a part of the literary theory, though the form in 
which it is put may be varied. As the theory is 
that painting is a purely imitative art, and is not in 
any way poetic or creative art, it has in the literary 
theory all the characteristics of useful art One of 
these is this double interest. A watch, for instance, 
may be regarded either as a machine useful for 
marking the time — this is what Alison calls the more 


interesting quality— or it may be examined and the 
ingenuity of the workman admired — ^this is what he 
calls the meaner quality. Now a poem contains a 
residuum quality. When Paradise Lost is laid down, 
or any other poem which may suit the reader, the 
sentiment which is left does not resolve itself into 
the feeling that on the one hand something has been 
learned, and on the other, that Milton, or whoever 
the poet may be, is a very ingenious writer. More- 
over, although Alison, writing on music, for which 
he did not care, could wind up his argument with 
the assertion that ** the beauty or sublimity of music 
arises from the qualities which it expresses, and not 
from the means by which they are expressed," no 
critic of poetry has said this. Horace tells us that 
when a poem is broken up, we find in the fragments 
of language {jx. in the means by which thoughts are 
expressed) the scattered limbs of the poet, and it 
would be strange if Alison or any other competent 
writer were to deny that all the great poets — ^with 
Shakespeare at their head — are distinguished by 
beauty of language. This beauty in poetry is not 
said to be a mean beauty, and is not said to be vain- 
glorious display of cleverness. Nor is it said that 
poets corrupt their own art. Alison's theory of 
music, worked out on lines parallel to the argument 
about painting, would lead up to the result that the 


great musical composers of the last century cor- 
rupted the art of music. Perhaps, even now, some 
who do not like classical music, though they enjoy 
operas, think in secret that musicians are prejudiced 
or affected, and that academical propensities interfere 
with the true development of the art. 

It is impossible to find a better test of the ^alue 
of artistic opinion than the nature and origin of Sir 
George Beaumont's brown-tree and old-fiddle theory. 
Though no one will maintain that the most classical 
and conventional of artists have literally obeyed this 
rule ; though it is certain that if Sir G. Beau- 
mont spoke seriously, he fell into the error of the 
connoisseur, and cannot be taken as a representative 
of artistic opinion ; though it is, on the face of it, 
unfair to take Sir G. Beaumont, who was not a 
professional artist, to be the mouthpiece of Academi- 
cians, and Constable, who was a professional artist, 
to be the spokesman of the opposite party, still it 
must be granted that there is described in the cele- 
brated question and assertion a tendency which may 
be observed. Among recent artists Copley Fielding 
is an instance. There is no doubt that he had a 
weakness for a' brown tree. We will examine the 
facts in order to see whether a more probable 
account of the matter cannot be given than that a 
study of pictures engenders a depraved taste. It 


must be observed that in this question, as in Sir 
Joshua's bad advice to generalise the forms of vege- 
tation, landscape art alone is interested. Sir G. 
Beaumont was speaking of landscape alone when he 
insisted that the general colour should be that of an 
old fiddle. Moreover, it will, I suppose, not be dis- 
puted that he was speaking of the nearer parts of 
the landscape, and did not mean that the sky or the 
distant parts should have this inexcusable quality. 
Now the g^eat distinction between figure or portrait 
painting on the one hand, and landscape on the 
other, is that in the latter greater differences of 
distance are found than in the former. In addition 
to which the latter is a representation of things seen 
in the full light of day ; the former, commonly, 
though not necessarily, of things seen in the subdued 
light of a room. When the whole case is examined, 
it will be found that a partial departure from the 
natural colouring is required in landscape, which is 
not requisite when the differences of distance and 
the degree of illumination are less. 

Leonardo da Vinci, of whom Hallam has said 
that his scientific intuition strikes us with the awe of 
praeternatural knowledge, first announced that the 
atmospheric blue is caused by minute particles which 
reflect certain of the rays of light The interception 
of the minor waves, which cause the sensation of 


blue, tinges the setting sun red, because the inter- 
posed volume of air, in which these particles float, is 
greater than when the sun is higher in the heavens. 
Of objects which are seen by reflected light the 
moon is almost the only one which is affected in 
like manner. It is not absolutely the only one. 
The snow- mountain irradiated by the setting sun 
is of a more pure rose colour when beheld from a 
distance than when seen from a nearer point of view. 
The first and immediate effect of the atmosphere is 
to colour distant objects red, not by an addition to 
the red rays, but by a diminution of the blue. But 
the particles which intercept the blue as it travels 
from the distant object to the spectator reflect at 
the same time the blue which is found in the 
scattered daylight This latter effect overpowers 
the former, unless the distant object is much more 
strongly lighted than nearer objects. Although, 
therefore, the setting sun or moon, and the distant 
snow-mountain, are tinged with red, the ordipary 
effect is that distance turns objects blue. But the 
blue which has been intercepted is not exactly 
replaced by the blue which the intervening atmo- 
sphere causes. The former was a varying quantity 
determined by the nature of the thing, the latter is 
a uniform quantity determined by the distance, or 
volume of air which is interposed, and is in excess 


of the former. The latter, therefore, is practically 
a translucent screen, which not only causes a blue 
tone, but also diminishes the light. It is evident 
that there is a diminution of light besides the addi- 
tion of blue, for though the sun becomes crimson, it 
is less dazzling than at mid-day. But the painter 
can only imitate the blue, and cannot also give the 
stronger light of the foregfround, yet, if he would give 
a true representation, must take note of differences of 
illumination as well as differences of colour. Pro- 
fessor Helmholtz shows how this is done, and shows 
at the same time, without intending it, how much 
more valuable the true science of optics is than the 
spurious science of painting. The crowning victory 
of the realistic principle has been in this question of 
the brown-tree doctrine. The honesty of the realistic 
artist has been shown in a lavish use of pure green 
in defiance of academical prejudice. When the 
point is examined it is found to illustrate the 
warning of Sir Joshua Reynolds that when rules are 
uppermost the perceptions are wrong. 

I must refer the reader to the Lecture on Optics 
and Painting, by Professor Helmholtz, for a full 
elucidation of the principle. He points out that 
there are in natural objects different degrees of light 
and dark which cannot be reproduced in a picture, 
and though he has not discussed the question which 


we have here, his argument may be transferred to it. 
Briefly put, it is that an increase of the red or 
yellow tones produces much the same effect as an 
increase of light It is immediately obvious that 
the desire to make the foreground parts of a land- 
scape, and especially the trees in the foreground, 
browner than they are in nature is justified by 
science. The artist is bound to imitate natural 
colours, but at the same time, if he altogether 
ignores differences of light and dark, the effect is 
false — false, at least, for the cultivated eye which 
has learned unconsciously and instinctively to require 
the twofold representation. The natural tree, before 
the leaves begin to fade, is green. Green with an 
infusion of red becomes brown. The brown tree in 
the foreground represents the greater illumination of 
the foreground. The only explanation, so far as I 
know, which has ever been given of Sir George 
Beaumont's doctrine (besides the explanation, which 
is no explanation, of academical prejudice) is that 
artists have a hypochondriacal taste for melancholy 
ideas, and love autumnal tints as suggestive of 
decay. The sentiment is rather of the opposite 
kind, derived from the vivifying influence of the 
sun's rays. The necessity for a departure from the 
natural colours exists in a less degree, if at all, in 
portrait and figure painting. Though it is not 


scientifically accurate to say that there is no green 
or blue in the human countenance, it is true so far 
as colours can be classified and named. As, more- 
over, the differences of distance are so small in the 
countenance that they have no practical effect on 
the colour question, a direct imitation is possible 
which renders the degrees of light and dark without 
a departure from the natural colours. Thus it is 
that the portrait painter has not been taxed with 
conventionalism. The violation of natural colour is 
apparent only where the complementary gjreen is 
charged with red. Clearly, therefore, no test or rule 
can be applied. Taste alone can judge whether the 
compromise is just. In any given instance it may 
seem to one eye that too much has been conceded 
to the illumination, and that the qualification of 
natural colour has been excessive ; to another, that 
the natural colour has been imitated with an exces- 
sive fidelity and the relations of light ignored. 
Theory cannot teach the artist to steer between 
Scylla and Charybdis, but, as Sir Joshua says, he 
must have his perceptions right 

As a general proposition, it would be allowed on 
all hands that perceptions are cultivated by exercise. 
No one would dispute that the blind, obliged to 
rely on the sense of touch, acquire an unusually nice 
tactual sense, and can by touch discern much which 


those who habitually use their eyes cannot feel. 
Moreover, it would be allowed that the faculty im- 
proved by special exercise is, whatever the faculty 
may be, for the most part more trustworthy than 
the uncultivated faculty. For instance, few or 
none would deny that the professional taster of 
wine is more probably right about the respective 
merits of two bottles of claret, than the total 
abstainer who has never tasted wine, or the boor 
who has drunk nothing but beer. But all general 
propositions are reversed in the literary theory of 
painting, and in the cry that academies are the 
upas tree of this art, it is assumed that cultivation 
perverts the taste, and that the natural (by which is 
meant the uncultivated) taste is the true taste. Yet 
if the educated writers who repeat this cry would 
reflect on their own art of literature and the patent 
facts, they would see that the styles which they 
admire are distasteful to those who have spent little 
time over books. The taste which admires Horace, 
or Dante, or Milton, is an artificial taste, and seems 
to the ignorant a perverted or conventional taste. 
There is a presumption, derived from analogy, that 
a practical study of colours improves the perceptions, 
as other exercises do. Nevertheless, there is a point 
with regard to which a digression into a technical 
question is necessary in order to remove a mis- 


understanding, as it seems to me to be. It is quite 
certain that there have been many painters who 
have, in spite of an assiduous cultivation of their 
art, remained to the last bad colourists, or relatively 
bad colourists. The fact cannot be disputed because 
artists agree with professional critics about this. 
Critics commonly explain this by saying* that such 
artists have no eye for colour, and this explanation 
is put as if it were so self-evident as to require no 
argument for its support. The critic lets it be seen 
that he is sure that if he practised the art, he would 
be, at least in this respect, superior to the artist 
whom he condemns. A closer examination of the 
facts would, I believe, show that some, if not all, 
bad colourists have had a very keen eye and an 
enthusiastic appreciation of colour, and that the 
defect in their own style is caused by a technical 
difficulty, and is not the result of a defective 

If any natural objects, remarkable for the beauty 
of the colouring, such as the plumage of birds, 
shells, butterflies, are examined closely, it will be 
seen that the colour is not absolutely homogene- 
ous, but is, in the language of artists, broken. If, 
moreover, the colours are imitated artificially, with a 
neglect of the breakage of the tones, the combina- 
tions which are in the natural object so admirable 


become crude and offensive. But it is not easy in 
oil-painting to give the play of more or less comple- 
mentary colour which is found in natural objects, 
and the difficulty is greater for those artists whose 
style is precise and hard than for those whose 
manner is comparatively indefinite. An inspection 
of a number of paintings will prove both these 
points. It will show that different artists employ 
different artifices, and that the same painter some- 
times breaks the colour in one way in one place, 
in another in another place. It will, moreover, I 
think, show that the bad colourists have usually 
been artists who have aimed at gfreat precision of 
outline. The difficulty in this matter which the oil- 
painter encounters is the exact opposite of that 
which the water - colourist finds. A mechanical 
painter can cover the wall of a room with a perfectly 
"flat" colour without the slightest difficulty. The 
water-colourist cannot obtain a square foot of flat 
colour without a long and tedious process. When 
water-colours are employed the tones break them- 
selves, and one reason why a sketch is often more 
attractive than a laboured water-colour drawing is 
that in the finishing process the slight inequalities 
which add to the beauty too often disappear. Con- 
summate skill and admirable taste, such as David 

Cox possessed, are needed to finish the water-colour 



without impairing the effect which chance gave 
when it came to assist art Aldiough, therefore, it 
might be rash to affirm that there is no difference 
among artists of colour perception, it is equally rash 
to take for granted that a defective sense is common. 
It is more likely that a technical difficulty is the 
real cause. When the colour is not effectively 
broken some combinations which might otherwise 
be possible are impossible, and all are less pleasing 
than they would otherwise be. 

Constable ridiculed Sir George Beaumont, and 
the accepted view about Constable seems to be 
that, although he was a professional artist, he was 
superior to the common prejudices of his order, and 
that the day which was dawning had dissipated 
some of the mist which usually obstructs the artistic 
vision. It is thought that he at least was guided 
by the realistic principle that the most exact 
imitation is the greatest work of art, and Mr. 
Ruskin hints that he even went too far in this 
direction.' We have Constable's word for it that he 
did not obey the realistic principle. He said that 
his practice was to subordinate all other considera- 
tions to the massing of the lights and darks, and 
he made a number of studies which were entirely 
devoted to this end. But to mass the light and 
dark is to omit intentionally many of the forms 



which can be observed in natural objects. This is 
not realism. His sin was one of omission ; Sir G. 
Beaumont's one of commission ; and this is the only 
difference. Professor Helmholtz has discussed this 
question as well as the previous question. He 
shows, illustrating his argument by a reference to 
Rembrandt, that the massing of the light and dark 
is an artifice of which the purpose is the same as 
the modification of natural colour. It is another 
way in which the artist surmounts the difficulty 
caused by the fact that the scale of light and dark 
which he commands is narrower than the scale in 
natural objects. Constable consciously employed 
one artifice, Sir George Beaumont another ; but 
though the former ridiculed the doctrine that trees 
should be brown, or landscapes have the colour of an 
old fiddle, I do not think that Constable loved in 
practice crude greens any better than his friendly 

These questions do not go to the bottom of the 
dispute between artists and non-artistic critics. The 
two parties are separated by a wider chasm, and 
apparently both have been reluctant to let the real 
question appear. The real question is whether a 
pleasure in colours or combinations of colours and 
forms, of which no rational explanation is forth- 
coming, is or not contemptible. Artists have 


hesitated to affirm consistently and plainly that 
their chief object is to produce such a pleasure, and 
that they select such themes for their pictures as 
are suitable for this purpose, rather than such as are 
interesting in other ways, because it is universally 
understood that intellectual pleasures are of a higher 
kind than other pleasures, and it has seemed to 
them that their art is lowered in dignity, if it is 
allowed that this is their chief end. On the other 
hand the " speculatist " who affirms that painting, as 
rightly understood, does not condescend to produce 
"a mere pleasure of sense," but causes an intel- 
lectual pleasure, comes into collision with facts 
which display their proverbially 'disagreeable attri- 
bute. He therefore shrinks from plain and candid 
statements, as well as his opponent, though for a 
different reason. He cannot help observing that 
for some reason, whatever it may be, there is a 
tendency in human beings to admire some colours 
more than others, and some forms more than others. 
The former of these tendencies is more plainly 
observable than the latter. Not only do human 
beings exhibit a preference for certain colours, which 
seems to be innate, as when infants or savages are 
attracted by bright colours, or when a quite un- 
cultivated person admires the beautiful hues of a 
window of stained glass, but there is some reason to 


think that the lower animals, as they are called, share 
this taste. The fact therefore that preferences of 
this kind may exist is indisputable. It is equally 
clear that, the principle that intellectual pleasures 
are the highest pleasures being granted, there is a 
danger lest the art of painting may be degraded, if 
it is conceded that any preference of this kind is 
allowed to affect the judgment. The literary theory 
is obliged for another reason to deny the legitimacy 
of any test of this kind. When the test is accuracy 
of imitation, argument is applicable. The repre- 
sentation may be compared bit by bit with the 
thing represented, and it may be demonstrated, as 
in the inductive sciences, that a given opinion is 
right or wrong. No demonstration of error is pos- 
sible, when colour preferences are admitted, inas- 
much as it is impossible to prove that a gratification 
is not felt which the spectator professes to feel. 
But though the advocates of the literary theory 
cannot admit that "a mere pleasure of sense" is 
legitimate in painting, they cannot explain the 
phenomenon which they undertake to explain {ix. 
the popularity of this art) when they deny it. They 
cannot show why, if painting is, as it is in their 
theory, nothing more than a kind of hieroglyphic 
writing, any one should resort to so clumsy and 
antiquated a device, when language would serve the 


purpose better. It being granted that intellectual 
pleasures are the highest, the answer is obvious that 
if this is taken to mean that they alone are permis- 
sible, they can be obtained by the study of books 
much more effectually, and there is no reason why 
any one should paint pictures. The fact remains 
that pictures are painted and are highly esteemed. 
When a theory is in a difficulty of this kind, the 
greatest kindness which a well-wisher can do it, is to 
present it with a sonorous word which has no well- 
ascertained meaning. Germany has conferred this 
favour on the literary theory of painting. It has 
invented the word cestheiic^ almost as blessed a word 
as Mesopotamia, and far more useful to the art- 
critic than the latter has ever been to the theologian. 
Vehemently as the friends of the literary theory 
have asserted that academical authorities are in- 
accurate in their facts as well as false in their 
principles, and that it is idle to hope for sound 
judgments except among the many who have never 
handled the pencil, they have never quite convinced 
themselves, and are conscious that they have not con- 
vinced others so perfectly as might be desired. They 
have at the same time been partly awake to the fact 
that the rudimentary colour-taste which animals and 
savages display is, in a more complex and developed 
condition, strong in the artistic nature, and is in 


some measure the secret of the vicious artistic 
propensity. The word aesthetic has enabled them 
to admit the fact without a repudiation of their own 
cardinal doctrine. It is understood that aesthetic is 
a science. It is defined in Roget's ThesauruSy as the 
science of taste, in Mr. Hay's Essays, as the science of 
beauty. Some, among whom I think Professor Helm- 
holtz must be counted, appear to be sceptical ; but the 
German nation seems to have persuaded the greater 
part of mankind that there is a science called 
aesthetic. This discovery has been invaluable to the 
literary theory. It could not admit a mere pleasure 
in colour, but, as aesthetic is a science, it has no 
objection to an aesthetic sentiment Thus the diffi- 
culty is kept in the background, and a scientific 
appearance preserved, while a non-scientific element 
is admitted. 

The objection to a recognition of colour-taste is not 
simply the negative one that it is non-intellectual, but 
is in part positive, and is connected with the ascetic 
sentiment. The word asceticism usually appears in 
connexion with religion, and is the name of extreme 
self-abasement and self-denial. But the ascetic 
temper is found in atheistical philosophy no less 
than in religious creeds, and wherever civilisation 
extends the doctrine or sentiment that pleasures of 
sense are reprehensible is more or less manifest So 


widely spread and so deeply rooted a sentiment is 
not easily intelligible, and the theological doctrine 
that pleasures of sense are the favourite weapon of the 
author of evil shows that a need of some explanation 
is felt It has been said by some who reject the 
theological explanation that the ascetic sentiment 
has its root in the desire of self-abasement in presence 
of human potentates ; but though it may be true 
that this is in part the origin of the feeling, this 
account does not seem to be quite adequate if 
taken by itself Antagonists of the theory of evolu- 
tion have adverted to this and some points connected 
with it, and though they have not disputed the a 
priori argument as enunciated by Mr. Herbert 
Spencer, have insisted that there is a difficulty when 
an attempt is made to reconcile with the theory the 
facts which are observed. By the word evolution 
most understand the one point in the theory which 
most interests them, viz. the doctrine that mankind 
are descended from an ape-like animal ; but the 
general theory, as we find it in Mr. Herbert Spencer's 
volumes, is a far wider one, and includes much as to 
which the general principle is conceded by all. Al- 
though asceticism, as part of a religious creed, is 
explicable as a display of self-humiliation in the 
presence of a superior, it is found where this explana- 
tion of its origin is unsatisfactory. Sir Alexander 


Grant, in his essays on Aristotle's philosophy, and in 
his Essay on the Ancient Stoics ^ has described the 
ascetic temper as a part of an extreme self-assertion. 
The philosopher would not condescend to a pleasure 
of sense lest he should degrade himself, and although 
it is undoubtedly true that moral sentiments become 
in time so purely instinctive that their ultimate 
application may be a contradiction of their origin, it 
may reasonably be doubted whether self-negation can 
so entirely change into self-assertion. But as the 
theory of evolution is that the five senses have been 
developed out of the sense of touch in conformity 
with the nature of things, it is a blot in this theory 
that a pleasure of sense should be repudiated, and it 
does not appear why a philosopher, who must admit 
that his senses are part of himself, should separate 
them from himself as a lower and relatively ignoble 
part The evolutionist philosopher cannot fall back 
on the answer which so many have given, that the 
understanding is a divine particular and that human 
nature has a double origin. In addition to this the 
facts do not fit in exactly. Shaftesbury has plainly 
put the argument, which many other authors have 
put indirectly, against the legitimacy of colour-taste. 
" If brutes, therefore, be incapable of enjoying and 
knowing beauty, as being brutes, and having sense 
only (the brutish part) for their own share, it follows 


that neither can man by the same sense, or brutish 
part, conceive or enjoy beauty ; but all the Beauty 
and Good he enjoys is in a nobler way and by the 
help of what is noblest — ^his mind and reason." (The 
Moralists: a Rhapsody y Characteristics ^ vol. ii., p. 
425.) Now among the pleasures of the brute crea- 
tion there is not one which has been so often 
observed and described as the delight of the female 
parent in nursing and protecting its young. But the 
inference has never been drawn that this tendency 
is brutish and unworthy of a rational being. Why 
should the senses be condemned on the score that 
brutes have senses, if parental affection is laudable 
which the brutes so strongly feel ? Obscure as this 
question is, an explanation — ^though perhaps only a 
partial explanation — suggests itself when the theory 
of evolution is closely followed. It is certain that 
either by the influence of the law of the survival 
of the fittest, or of some other law, the various races 
of animals adapt themselves in course of time to the 
circumstances in which they are placed. In con- 
formity with this principle it is found that instincts 
are a sure guide when they are exercised under 
conditions which have been long unchanged, but are 
treacherous when the animal is placed in unfamiliar 
surroundings. It is almost superfluous to offer ex- 
amples of a fact so well known. A striking example 


is seen in the tendency of moths to bum themselves 
in a lighted candle. In the natural condition which 
determined the instincts of the moth the only bright 
lights which it could see were the stars and the moon. 
It could not burn itself in these, and if they attracted 
it and caused it to fly upwards, this habit might, by 
facilitating the meeting of the sexes, or in some 
other way, be beneficial. When the lighted candle 
— a novel element in the " environment " — is intro- 
duced, the instinct is false and injurious. If, then, we 
suppose that the moths could observe, remember, and 
reflect on what occurs, and that lighted candles were 
during a long period of time frequently found in their 
favourite haunts, it is evident that a sentiment might 
be formed that it is perilous to allow the instinctive 
love of a bright light to influence their conduct, and 
with this a general feeling that pleasures of sight are 
dangerous. Further, as the different senses form one 
connected group, and moral sentiments are greatly 
affected by the association of ideas, there might arise 
ultimately the doctrine that all pleasures of sense are 
evil in their nature. Now, whatever theory may be 
adopted about the origin of the human race, it is too 
late to argue that man was created a civilised being. 
It is certain that a long period elapsed before art 
changed the environment, and that his physical 
nature and instincts were immutably determined in 



their more general characteristics, while the conditions 
in which he existed were those which nature pro- 
vided. In order, therefore, to ascertain why, con- 
sistently with the doctrines of evolution, human 
beings should think pleasures of sense evil, we must 
ask whether man ever did for himself what he does 
for the moth when he produces a lighted candle. It 
is evident that he did this. When he invented 
fermented liquors, with which nature had not provided 
him, he kindled a torch which has burned ever since, 
and in the flames of which mankind have never 
ceased to singe their wings. The direct and immedi- 
ate effect of intoxication — the temporary loss of 
reason and the temporary excitement of unbridled 
passion — would in itself be enough to cast discredit 
on the sense of taste and on the other senses by an 
association of ideas. But this was not the only way 
in which the invention of fermented drinks affected 
the moral sentiment It went hand in hand with 
the art of cooking, and these two arts together have 
given to banquets a degree of importance in the 
ceremonies of civilised life which they could not 
otherwise have obtained. Though the moralists of 
ancient Greece, like the moralists of the present day, 
direct their invectives against the immediate effects, 
all history shows that the remoter results of intem- 
perate feasting have engendered a profounder anger. 


The extravagance of the despots of antiquity and of 
the kings and nobles of modem Europe has been 
connected with revelry, of which feasts have been 
the nucleus. The oppressed and over-taxed peasant 
or tradesman who could forgive the expenditure 
which was caused by war could not pardon the wanton 
self-indulgence which caused him and his children to 
starve. The connexion between tyranny and the 
indulgence of the pleasures of sense is perhaps more 
plainly seen in the history of France than anywhere 
else. But it is in some shape discernible everywhere, 
and it is not strange that a passion, which begins by 
stealing the brains and ends by robbing others of 
their rights, should have stamped with an ineffaceable 
stigma the whole family of the senses. Among 
irrational animals the laws of evolution work surely 
and swiftly. When savages are brought face to face 
with an abundant supply of fermented liquor they 
are speedily killed off, and if the art of making it had 
been suddenly perfected before the moral sentiment 
had time to ripen, it is probable that all would have 
been destroyed, or a few left whose descendants 
might either dislike or be uninjured by alcoholic 
liquor. But the intelligence which invents interferes 
to thwart the summary execution of the law that the 
fittest survive. It may be that at some distant 
period alcohol will cease to be injurious, or will cease 


to be attractive or attractive in excessive quantities. 
But there is no sign that this consummation is at 
hand, and the instinct which is so trustworthy when 
nature's one drink is present has not yet adapted 
itself to the novelty which art has produced. Inas- 
much, therefore, as the pleasure of eating and drinking 
is the most universally experienced and most influ- 
ential of all the pleasures of sense, when the whole 
period of human life is surveyed, there is an ever- 
present and ever-increasing disposition to condemn 
all pleasures of sense ; and, paradoxical as it may 
seem to connect the cry that academies of painting are 
mischievous with the evil effects of intoxication and 
feasting, perhaps there is a connexion. There is no 
evidence that artists suppose a peculiar sense, which 
was Alison's account, but there is evidence and a 
general probability that they attach value to qualities 
of form and colour, for which they cannot give an 
intelligible reason. Although in the arguments which 
are framed the point to which prominence is given is 
that any preference of this kind is unintellectual, 
there is a secret assumption that any pleasure which 
is unintellectual is evil. 

Shaftesbury drew a distinction between form and 
colour. It was proper, he said, that the artist should 
study form, and rational beings might without self- 
degradation admire the various qualities of form ; but 


too much was conceded to the " brutish part " when 
colours were studied or admired. It is not likely 
that any critic at the present day would say this, and 
most would indignantly refuse to admit that such a 
doctrine is part of their creed. Yet I think that any 
one who has been in the habit of scrutinising the 
criticisms which are published in newspapers and 
magazines must have observed traces of this opinion.. 
It is, however, noteworthy that a greater philosopher 
than Shaftesbury drew a different line. It happens 
that Plato touched this question, and expressed a 
different opinion. " I do not mean by the beauty of 
form such beauty as that of animals or pictures, 
which the many would suppose to be my meaning ; 
but, says the argument, understand me to mean 
straight lines and circles, and the plane or solid 
figures which are formed out of them by turning 
lathes, and rulers, and measurers of angles ; for these 
I affirm to be not only relatively beautiful, like other 
things, but they are eternally and absolutely beauti- 
ful, and they have peculiar pleasures quite unlike the 
pleasures of scratching. And there are colours which 
are of the same character and have similar pleasures," 
{JPhilebuSy Dialogues of Plato^ Jowett, vol. iii., p. 203, 
ed. 1 87 1.) This is a very different account Plato 
implies that the pleasures attached to some kinds of 
forms are like the pleasure of scratching, %£, belong 


to the brutish part, and that colours are divisible in 
a like manner. Which of these two opinions is the 
sounder is a question which can only be answered by 
an inquiry into the origin of taste. But there are 
some comments on Plato's statement which may be 
appropriately made here. It is quite manifest that 
the eternally beautiful forms of which he speaks are 
the geometrical forms which can be exactly expressed 
in technical language. When he adds that a like 
distinction holds good among colours it must, I think, 
be supposed that he recognised the fact that some 
colour-names are more definite than others, but had 
not observed that even the most exact names of 
colours lack the mathematical precision which dis- 
tinguishes some forms from others. The eternally 
beautiful forms are clearly the forms which belong to 
science. Not having carefully investigated the point 
he took for granted that the primary colours resemble 
them in this. But the passage is chiefly significant, 
as showing that statuary was not in Plato's opinion 
a fine art. Whatever may be the exacter definition 
of fine art, it must be allowed that it means generally 
admirable art. Statuary proper, however, as distin- 
guished from architectural sculpture, absolutely re- 
pudiates the truly beautiful forms, and appropriates 
the forms which give a pleasure like that of scratching. 
It is impossible that Plato could have thought such 


an art an admirable art But, as will be more 
perfectly shown presently, Plato held the literary 
theory of statuary. It was in his eyes valuable solely 
as a means of representation. 

Although these distinctions have been drawn be- 
tween colour and form, and between two kinds of 
form, all writers on Ethics unite in affirming that 
the two senses of seeing and hearing are of a nobler 
kind than the three other senses of touch, smell, and 
taste. There is a dispute about the relative rank 
of the latter. Touch is commonly put at the bottom 
of the list, but Professor Bain contends that it 
ought to be placed above the oth^r two. Writers on 
these topics have not arrived at any certain grounds 
for the relatively high estimation in which the 
faculties of seeing and hearing, with their annexed 
pleasures, are held. The question is intricate, but 
I will endeavour to put briefly the points which 
seem to have been most effective in giving them 
their higher rank. The pleasures of seeing and 
hearing are for the most part felt more feebly than 
those of physical taste, and the ascetic sentiment 
for this reason admits them to be less culpable. 
But taste is more nearly identical with smell and 
touch than with seeing and hearing. Touch com- 
prehends many sensations of different kinds ; but 
except in the instance of heat sensation, which is 




caused as colour sensation is caused, the three 
senses of touch, taste, and smell, recognise only the 
matter which is known to touch, and ignore the 
hypothetical matter which transmits the waves of 
light. The faculty of hearing resembles them in 
this, but resembles sight in the peculiarity that dis- 
tant objects are connected with it by a series of 
vibrations. The two senses of seeing and hearing 
are in this way specially connected with the under- 
standing, which in theological theory is the highest 
part as a divina particular in evolutional theory, as 
the most potent instrument in securing the means 
of life. For though the sensation of warmth is 
caused as colour sensations are caused, there is the 
difference that temperature does not subdivide itself 
into distinct sensations as colours and sounds do, 
but is always of one kind existing in different 
degrees. The two senses of seeing and hearing are 
then connected with the understanding in two 
different ways which has raised the reputation of 
both. As knowledge advances, sight is ever taking 
the place of touch. The ignorant person tests the 
temperature of a fluid by putting his finger into it ; 
the chemist puts a thermometer in, and observes the 
rise or fall of the mercury. The savage estimates 
the weight of a thing by the sense of muscular effort ; 
the civilised man takes a balance and trusts to his 


eyes. Sight, therefore, is a higher sense than touch. 
Different considerations give a dignity of a different 
kind to the faculty of hearing. The infant and the 
savage think — rightly or wrongly — ^that the kind of 
knowledge which the combined exercise of the 
faculties of touch and sight provides for them is of a 
poor and worthless kind in comparison with the 
traditional knowledge of religious truths, family feuds 
and friendships, benignant and maleficent spirits, 
and all the general principles which determine the 
conduct of life. Knowledge of this kind is orally 
given, and the faculty which is its recipient is raised 
in esteem by the association. It may often be 
observed how strong the resulting sentiment is. 
Some philosophers have thought that it would be 
improper to commit to writing the profounder parts 
of their wisdom. Most pious persons think that a 
sermon which has been read is an inadequate sub- 
stitute for a sermon which has been heard. Even 
learned universities hold that the knowledge which 
is contained in books acquires an added value when 
imparted in professorial orations. 



It has often been observed that opinions remain 
with some life in them long after the decay of the 
arguments which gave them their being. Few like 
to think that what has often been said can be alto- 
gether false. When physical science was in its 
infancy and the causes of the intermittent phases of 
the moon were not understood, nor how it affected 
the tides, it was natural to attribute to its influence 
variable phenomena for which no better cause could 
be found. Experience has slowly expelled the 
doctrine that the moon is the origin of lunacy ; but 
inaccurate observers persist in thinking that it 
determines the changes of the weather. A similar 
persistence of false opinion may be observed in 
mental science, and though the kind of theory on 
-which the science of taste is founded is obsolete, it 
is commonly said and thought that there is such a 
science. A few quotations must be introduced in order 

■■ ■ wr^^i^mmttm^m^^^ 

CHAP, v.] TASTE. i8i 

to show what is said and thought about this. Burke 
built his argument on the following foundation : — 
" On a superficial view we may seem to differ widely 
from each other in our reasonings, and no less in 
our pleasures; but notwithstanding this difference, 
which I think to be rather apparent than real, it is 
probable that the standard both of reason and taste 
is the same in all human creatures. For if there 
were not some principles of judgment, as well as of 
sentiment common to all mankind, no hold could 
possibly be taken either of their reason or their 
passions sufficient to maintain the ordinary corre- 
spondence of life. It appears, indeed, to be generally 
acknowledged that with regard to truth and false- 
hood there is something fixed. We find people in 
their disputes continually appealing to certain tests 
and standards which are allowed on all sides, and 
are supposed to be established in our common 
nature. But there is not the same obvious con- 
currence in any uniform or settled principles which 
relate to taste. It is even commonly supposed that 
this delicate and aerial faculty which seems too 
volatile to endure even the chains of a definition 
cannot be properly tried by any test or regulated 
by any standard." This argument may be put more 
briefly as follows : — " With regard to a certain class 
of questions, we find disputants * continually appeal- 


ing to certain tests and standards which are allowed 
on all sides.' This is a proof that there is * some- 
thing fixed.' With regard to another class, it is 
supposed that they cannot be * tried by any test or 
regulated by standard/ and there is not * the same 
obvious concurrence in uniform or settled principles.' 
This is a proof that the latter opinion is erroneous." 
But though it suited Burke to say that taste is a 
word which seems to be too volatile to endure the 
chains of a definition, this excessive volatility is not 
usually attributed to it Many have said, and all 
except the advocates of the science of taste have 
thought, that taste can be defined as a preference 
about which argument is impossible. The proverb, 
de gustibus non est disputanduniy is in substance a 
definition, for every one understands that ^^ gustibus 
are likings or preferences. The figurative use of the 
word taste is, in fact, one of the many pieces of 
evidence of the importance of the physical taste. 
Metaphors are borrowed from the stronger and 
transferred to the weaker. Different shades of 
colour are called tones because sounds have greater 
effect on feeling than colours, and likes or dislikes 
are called tastes and distastes, because the prefer- 
ences and aversions which are connected with food 
are stronger, more diverse, and more constantly ex- 
perienced than any others. As these preferences are 

v.] TASTE. 183 

inexplicably taste is the name of an inexplicable 
preference. It is no answer to this to say that 
scksice has explained some, and perhaps may ulti- 
mately explain all. Undoubtedly it may. But the 
meanings of words are fixed by the opinions of 
those who use them, and " taste," with its equivalents 
in other languages, has been defined without any 
thought of physiological theories. The term science 
of tastCy is, therefore, a self-contradiction. Science 
explains phenomena, i,e, connects certain particular 
propositions with wider propositions. A science of 
taste is an explanation of the inexplicable. We 
cannot say with propriety that a mother has a taste 
for her own infant, because the general law that 
parents love their offspring explains the preference ; 
nor that a man has a taste for his own horse, 
because it is known that most persons esteem highly 
that which belongs to them. But class preferences 
of which there is no apparent explanation are called 
tastes. As children have a taste for sweet things, 
so it is said that some men have a taste for horses, 
some women for children. The true meaning of the 
assertion that there is a science of taste is, accord- 
ingly, that there ought to be no tastes, and as a 
whole series of inconvenient facts intrudes when this 
is said, it is not surprising that the world should 
have eagerly adopted the use of the word aesthetic, 



which it owes to Grermany. No one knows precisely 
what this term means, and it can be employed with- 
out too plain an implication that there are no tastes 
or ought to be no tastes. Burke announced himself 
as the founder of the science, and thought it neces- 
sary to demonstrate the possibility and utility of it. 
An advance had been made when Coleridge com- 
posed a Preface for the Encyclopaedia Metropolitanay 
and he assumed, or affected to assume, that no doubt 
could exist, though the more pliant word aesthetic 
had not come into fashion. He wrote as follows : — 
" The relations of Law and Theory have each their 
method. Between these two lies the method of the 
Fine Arts, a method in which certain great truths, 
composing what are called usually the Laws of 
Taste, necessarily predominate ; but in which there 
are also other laws, dependent on external objects 
of sight and sound, which these arts embrace. To 
prove the comparative value and dignity of the 
first relation, it will be sufficient to observe that 
what is called ' tinkling ' verse is disagreeable to the 
accomplished critic in poetry, and that a fine musical 
taste is soon dissatisfied with the harmonica or any 
similar instrument of glass or steel, because the body 
of the sound (as the Italians phrase it), or that effect 
which is derived from the materials, encroaches too 
far on the effect derived from the proportions of the 

v.] TASTE, 185 

notes, which proportions are in fact Laws of the 
Mind, analogous to the Laws of Arithmetic and 
Geometry." Unfortunately Coleridge did not think 
it necessary to specify a Law of Taste, but, leaving 
the reader to find one for himself, informs him that 
such a relation would be in the opinion of the ac- 
complished critic of more value and dignity than 
some other relation. This seems to show that if 
there is a science of taste it must differ greatly from 
most other sciences ; for it certainly is not usual to 
consult the accomplished critic about the relative 
value and dignity of the relations of hydrogen to 
oxygen, and of two angles of a triangle to each 
other. But in the latter part of the paragraph Laws 
of Taste disappear, and Laws of Mind are sub- 
stituted. The singular statement is then made that 
the proportions of musical notes are in fact laws of 
mind. Now a musical note may mean — i. A 
certain musical sensation ; 2. A certain set of 
vibrations which causes the said sensation ; 3. A spot 
of ink on a sheet of paper which represents both the 
sensation in question and the vibrations which cause 
it. In which of these three senses the proportions 
of notes can be laws of mind, is a question as 
obscure as that more celebrated problem, whether a 
chimaera buzzing in a vacuum can feed on second 
intentions. The fact is that Coleridge was distorting 


the undoubted truth that there is a mathematical 
science of music so as to make it seem to support 
his case, and it must be remarked that although 
he introduces the words " external objects of sight " 
in the first part, implying thereby that what he says 
is applicable to the arts of sight, he does not attempt 
to give an illustration which bears on painting or 
statuary. We will now come down to our own time. 
It is a curious and suspicious fact that althoi^h 
Burke undertook to frame a science of taste, and 
Coleridge thought there was such a sdence, a French 
author who died not long ago Imagined that it had 
been reserved for him to enunciate the principles of 
this science. M. Charles Blanc has explained in the 
Introduction to his Grammaire des Arts du Dessin^ 
yAiy he thought it necessary to compose this treatise. 
The conversation at a dinner party had turned on 
the Fine Arts, and after some discussion — **Cependant 
parmi les hommes ^minents de la compagnie il s'en 
trouva qui, un peu confus de ne pas avoir les notions 
les plus d^mentaires de Tart, demandfcrent s'il existait 
un livre ou ces notions fussent presentees sous une 
forme simple, claire, et assez br^ve pour manager le 
temps du lecteur. Nous r^pondimes que ce livre 
n'existait point, et qu'au sortir du college nous 
eussions iXi heureux nousmdme de le rencontrer ; 
que beaucoup d'ouvrages avaient ^t^ compost sur le 

v.] TASTE, 187 

beau ; qu'on avait ^crit de trait^s sans nombre sur 
Tarchitecture comme sur la peinture, et plusieurs 
volumes sur la statuaire, mais qu'il restait encore k 
congevoir un travail d'ensemble, un r&um6 lucide de 
toutes les id^es que le monde a remu^s ou que la 
meditation peut faire naitre touchant les arts du 
dessin." If a science of taste can be constructed, it 
is strange that at so recent a period M. Charles Blanc 
should have sought in vain for an elementary treatise, 
and that these hommes iminents should have been in 
doubt on the subject. An elementary treatise on 
Chemistry or Hydrostatics would have been easily 
found. The excessive volatility which Burke thought 
was an attribute of the word taste seems to be a 
peculiarity rather of the science. 

The term " laws of taste " is now old-fashioned, and 
" canons of criticism " is found instead of it. This 
change of phraseology is recommended by the same 
considerations which make the word (Esthetic desirable. 
A law of taste is a self-contradiction, but Ibe term 
** canon of criticism " is free from this objection. It 
is a term which, outside the province of taste, has a 
well-ascertained meaning, and does not provoke an 
instinctive revolt of the understanding, if such a 
phrase may be excused, by its false ring. But the 
improvement thus effected is only superficial, for 
there cannot be canons without laws. An example 


of a true canon of criticism is the rule, which seems 
at first paradoxical, that when two readings are 
found in ancient manuscripts, that one must be pre- 
ferred which gives the less satisfactory meaning. 
This canon is derived from the law that all changes 
must have a cause. A cause can be imagined for 
the change from a less to a more intelligible read- 
ing in the desire of the scribe to make the passage 
intelligible ; but as such a cause cannot be imagined 
for a change in the opposite direction, the presumption 
is that the unintelligible reading is the older and more 
genuine. The law on which all modem canons of 
artistic criticism are based, is the supposed law that 
the most exact imitation is the greatest work of art. 
But the truth is cleverly disguised. Among the 
artifices which are employed for this purpose two 
merit a special notice. The first is, to lay down one 
or two trite maxims of morality, and to pretend that 
these are laws of taste. The art teacher lays a stress 
on the indisputable fact that careless and hasty work 
is less satisfactory than work which is carefully exe 
cuted, and exhorts the artist or artisan to be honest 
and industrious. If teaching of this kind could be 
effective there is no doubt that it would be valuable, 
and other things besides the Fine Arts might profit 
by it. But the cart is here put before the horses. 
Good morals and honest enthusiasm may make good 

v.] TASTE, 189 

art, but cannot themselves be created by lamentation 
about the decay of art Impotent, however, as such 
teaching is for good, it can work, and has worked, 
mischief. Artists and artisans who refuse to change 
their nature for one occasion only, in order to please 
aesthetic sentiment, are willing to compromise the 
matter by an imitation of the styles which are held 
up to them for admiration. Let the lecturer on 
taste make a bygone style fashionable, and they will 
not refuse to produce a superficial imitation which 
saves them the trouble of invention. Principles of 
morality are not laws of taste ; and, when dressed up 
as such, inflict an injury on morals as well as taste. 
Another disguise which laws of taste sometimes 
assume is that of self-evident and meaningless pro- 
positions. An example of this is the rule that colour 
should be harmonious. Such a rule applied to sound 
has a meaning because the harmonies of sound can 
be calculated, but applied to colour it only means 
that the combinations of colour should be pleasing, 
and is worthless. The test of colour-harmony is the 
effect which it produces on feeling, and it is under- 
stood that the colouring should be pleasing. But 
this rule, like the moral precept which gives birth to 
an incongruous mixture of different styles, may be 
mischievous, though powerless for good. A discord 
implies the presence of at least two elements. One 


colour by itself cannot be discordant, nor one musical 
note. The rule, therefore, that colour should be 
harmonious is not wanted if the colouring is mono- 
chromatic. When applied to polychromatic colour- 
ing Its practical meaning is, that the risk of discord 
should be avoided by an exclusion of all well-, 
marked tones, and that colour should be mono- 
tonous, if not absolutely monochromatic. The 
greater the variety, the greater the danger, and the 
decorator or artist who remembers this seeks safety 
by avoiding variety. With this rule uppermost his 
taste has not free play, and his perceptions lose their 

The principles of the science of taste were first pro- 
mulgated when it was not understood that the likes 
and dislikes which circumstances form in individuals 
may be transmitted to later generations. Writers 
on this question thought that they had to choose 
between two alternatives : that either the natural 
causes which affect each individual must account for 
all the tastes of the individual, or that tastes have a 
supernatural origin. They had not observed that 
there is a process of hereditary accumulation, and 
that a faint influence extending through long periods 
of time may ultimately form strong preferences and 
distastes, for which there is no apparent reason. The 
inference which Burke drew was natural. If some 

v.] TASTE. 191 

of the sentiments were shared by all, and were, as 
was assumed, part of a prearranged design, it was 
reasonable to suppose that there must be some way 
by which minor differences could be reconciled to 
each other. So long as this theory was deemed 
incontrovertible, and one party endeavoured to prove 
that the individual's experience of utility determined 
the individual's tastes, the other, that an experience 
of utility has no effect on tastes, and that they have 
all a supernatural origin, the truth could not be 
ascertained. Hutcheson, maintaining the view, sound 
in itself, that the tastes of each individual cannot be 
explained by the experience of each individual, over- 
stated the case as follows : — " Custom can never 
give us any idea of a sense different from those 
which we had antecedent to it It will never make 
the blind approve objects as coloured, or those who 
have no taste approve meats as delicious, however 
much they might approve them as strengthening or 
exhilarating" (p. 88, ed. 1726). "Our sense of 
pleasure is antecedent to advantage and interest, 
and is the foundation of it " (p. 1 1 3). It is, of 
course, true that custom can never make the blind 
approve objects as coloured, as there can be no 
custom in this case ; and, in like manner, those who 
have no taste (if by this is intended those who are 
incapable of distinguishing by taste) cannot learn to 


approve meats as delicious which they cannot dis- 
tinguish from other meats. But the point which he 
is endeavouring to establish is, that taste cannot be 
affected by an experience of utility, and in this he 
is mistaken. An experience that a given kind of 
meat is strengthening or exhilarating does tend to 
make it agreeable to taste, and even many drugs 
lose at last their nauseous quality when the patient 
has often found that they relieve a sense of pain or 
discomfort Hutcheson overstated his' case, because 
his adversaries overstated theirs, when they endeav- 
oured to prove that the tastes of the individual are 
formed by the individual's experience. This alter- 
native has now vanished, and a rational theory of 
taste must admit two laws : i. That a true cause 
operating during long periods may, though a feeble 
cause, produce at last, by a process of hereditary 
accumulation, results which it is at first sight inade- 
quate to produce. 2. That a more potent cause, 
operating during a shorter period, may produce 
equally great results. But in both it must be assumed 
that a true taste, or purely instinctive preference, has 
a remote origin. For instance, in the example given 
above, although the medicine which is at first ex- 
tremely distasteful becomes less offensive as its good 
effects are felt, the consciousness that this is the 
reason of the change of taste is not entirely lost. It 

v.] TASTE, 193 

does not become a purely instinctive preference. 

Another example of a taste which is being formed 

may be found in architecture. A wall which is not 

vertical is displeasing to taste, but at the same time 

there is a consciousness that the distaste is produced 

by a sense of insecurity. The taste is partly formed, 

for no intellectual conviction that the slanting wall 

is made secure by an external buttress, or some device 

of this kind, suffices to make such a wall pleasant to 

the eye ; but the taste is not perfectly formed, since 

it can be explained, and is not a pure instinct An 

instance of a genuine taste is the desire to make a 

building symmetrical. In many public buildings the 

architect sacrifices convenience for the sake of putting 

the chief entrance in the centre, with two sides which 

exactly correspond, and all approve this arrangement 

This taste is so genuine or instinctive that no one 

asks whence it comes. 

Since all true tastes must have a remote origin, 

we are obliged to suppose that all have their seat in 

what Shaftesbury called the pleasures of the brutish 

part If they are directly traceable to physical causes 

brutes must share them, and the natural causes which 

have been effectual in man must be those which 

affect irrational animals. The first question, therefore, 

which offers itself is, what are the chief pleasures of 

irrational animals ? These come under three heads : 



I. The sexual passion ; 2. The pleasure of eating 
and drinking ; 3. The general pleasure which accom- 
panies health and vital energy or vigour. The second 
of these pleasures, which has in the human race been 
unnaturally developed by the arts of cooking and 
making fermented liquors, does not seem to have 
contributed to the development of colour or sound 
taste directly, though it has aided indirectly, as both 
music and the arts of sight have been pressed into 
the service of festivity. But there is reason for 
thinking that in the insect tribe this pleasure has 
directly formed the colour -taste. Much has been 
written about the way in which the insects have 
given their colours to the petals of flowers, and 
flowers in return have formed the tastes of insects. 
The theory of evolution, however, does not admit 
that the vertebrates are descended from the articu- 
lates, and though many reject what this theory 
affirms, none will dispute what it denies about 
descent. Consequently human beings cannot have 
inherited colour-tastes from the insects. The origin 
of these tastes must, accordingly, be sought under 
one of remaining heads, or both of them. The first 
suggestion which occurs is that the vertebrates gener- 
ally are active in light and are sluggish in the dark, 
and that in this way the third origin must be in 
some way the source of these tastes. This, more- 

v.] TASTE, 195 

over, to some extent suits the facts of the case. 
The colour-tastes are not strong or pronounced, but 
are such as might be formed by an association with 
the pleasure of moderate activity. If there could be 
developed a race of artists in the insect tribe, it is 
likely that there would be a keen and passionate 
delight in bright colours, corresponding to the strong 
passion for food and the brilliant hues of the flowers ; 
but though it is beyond all question that the primary 
colours are more attractive than others to human 
beings, and perhaps to other animals (to wit, the 
bower -birds of Australia) this preference is not 
very strongly marked. Still an objection occurs 
when the colour-tastes are referred to the influence 
of light. It seems to be thought by those who have 
studied the question that the earliest progenitors of 
the human race lived in woods and climbed trees. 
If this is true we might expect to find a decided 
preference for green, as the colour most constantly 
present. Even if no weight is attached to this 
theory, green is a colour which is conspicuous in 
summer and rare in winter, is frequent in such 
places as are suitable to life, and unknown in arid 
regions where life is hard and unpleasant Yet 
language testifies to the fact that green is not a 
very attractive colour. Pure or true greens are 
qualified as " coppery," ** raw," and " crude." These 


epithets imply that there is a distaste for pure 
green, and they suggest an explanation. Their 
testimony to the fact cannot be disputed, but it 
does not follow that the implied explanation is true. 
An abundant experience proves that even at the 
present day a knowledge of the poisonous quality 
of most metallic greens is not common, and cases 
frequently occur of deaths and illness caused by 
pickles and sweetmeats which attract by their bright 
green colour. Nor is the implied explanation that 
uncooked vegetables are indigestible any more satis- 
factory. On the contrary, it is an object in cooking 
to preserve the true green colour ; and raw green 
lettuce excites no feeling of repugnance. Some 
different association must have determined this dis- 
taste ; for it seems to be highly improbable that 
any direct physical cause can be assigned. If red 
were a displeasing or relatively unattractive colour, 
it might be thought that the greater magnitude of 
the waves which provoke the sensation accounts for 
the fact But as green stands in the middle of the 
scale, an explanation of this kind cannot be the true 
one. If, however, we pass to an examination of the 
other colours, it is apparent that an adequate cause 
can be found for the beauty of at least one of them. 
This is blue. This colour is only found in nature 
when the sun shines, and the vivifying influence of 

v.] TASTE, 197 

the direct rays of the sun is felt by almost all the 
animal world. When the clouds collect and inter- 
cept the rays of the sun the pure blue disappears 
and a canopy of lead takes its place. At the same 
time the vital energy feels the loss. Perhaps it is 
this association which has made " a leaden disposi- 
tion " proverbial as a term of disapprobation, rather 
than the weight or poisonous quality of the metal. 
Maritime races have, it must be supposed, been more 
strongly affected than any others. The ocean reflects 
in deeper tones the azure blue of the sky, and all 
things conspire to make it a grateful colour to those 
who do business in the great waters. But the 
inhabitants of inland districts have felt the charm 
as well as the dwellers on the coast Even in 
tropical climates blue is welcome, and gray is the 
companion, sometimes of oppressive heat, sometimes 
of superabundant rain. It is true that when the 
colours are arranged in order as more or less warm 
and cold, blue must stand at one end and red at the 
other. 1 ^ But practically the colours which cause a 
sentiment of coolness are those which incline to blue. 
Pure blue is lavishly displayed in the pictures of 
Titian and P. Veronese. It heightens the value of 
the other colours by contrast, but does not mar the 
sunny effect of the composition. Fromentin is an 
example of a modem painter whose taste for tropical 


scenery and subjects was accompanied by a passion 
for blue. But the sunshine, which comes with the 
blue sky as an invariable companion, annihilates the 
pure greens of nature by an augmentation of the 
yellow and red tones. In rainy and gloomy weather 
the foliage greens are true greens : when the sun 
darts forth his rays they acquire an orange tint. 
This seems to be true reason why a pure green 
colour excites an instinctive antipathy. It is the 
artist who talks of crude and coppery greens as if he 
disliked them ; and, as is shown by the practice of 
colouring pickles, preserved vegetables, and sweet- 
meats, they are not repugnant as symptomatic of 
poison or indigestibility. They are emblematic of 
the absence of the sun, as blue is the emblem of its 
presence, and are suggestive of a malignant influence. 
A blue eye is counted a beauty ; but Shakespeare 
describes jealousy as a green-eyed monster. This 
same association is sufficient to account for the 
milder charm which subdued or qualified greens 
possess. The warmth of the sun is not always 
desired, and a colour which typifies its absence may 
be agreeable. An observation which Sir Frederick 
Leighton made in an address delivered at Burlii^on 
House bears on this question : ** This is worthy of 
notice, that we see in Egyptian painting the first use 
of that combination of green and blue which was to 

v.] TASTE, 199 

be the dominant note of so much that is most 
beautiful in Eastern coloured decoration." {Times ^ 
December 11, 1883.) A taste for a combination 
of blue and green, it must be observed, cannot be 
explained by the law of the decorator that the com- 
|)lementary colours form the colour-harmonies. Sir 
Frederick Leighton describes this taste as one 
peculiar to Eastern nations. I suppose that it 
cannot be thought a violent construction of the 
meaning, if we understand by Eastern nations the 
inhabitants of hot climates. It is inconceivable that 
a mere difference of longitude can have an influence, 
arid it is generally allowed that green and blue do 
not form a combination which pleases the eye of the 
inhabitant of colder countries. But this taste which 
contradicts the accepted theory of colour- harmony 
perfectly suits the view that the warmth of the sun 
forms the colour-taste. Blue is universally desirable : 
green especially welcome to the inhabitant of a 
tropical country; and thus a concord is formed for 
the latter by the junction of two colours which 
harmonise less perfectly elsewhere. It seems to me 
that if it were true that the harmonic quality of 
colouring is determined by the composition of light, 
a pure colour should be distasteful when the com- 
plementaries are absent. This feeling, however, that 
something is wanting, does not arise. When any one 


is seated in a boat on the sea at a distance from the 
shore, he sees, if the day is fine, only blue of differ- 
ent shades. But there does not arise a feeling that 
this uniformity of colour is offensive, unless the 
monochromatic quality is connected with a sense of 
weariness and a desire for change. As a part of the 
desire to be on dry land again there may of course 
be a desire to escape from the all -surrounding blue. 
A single musical sound differs, as Professor Helm- 
holtz explains, from a single colour with regard to 
this. In the musical sound there are concords. 
There is, to borrow a term from physiology, a super- 
foetation of harmonics. This does not occur in colour, 
and the total absence of harmonic quality in each 
separate colour makes it unintelligible that a single 
colour can please the eye, on the hypothesis that 
colour-harmonics are determined by quantity. The 
difficulty entirely disappears when it is assumed that 
the warmth of the sun is the determinant cause, and 
that the sense of harmony is formed exclusively by 
an association of ideas. Some of the rules which 
authorities give are completely justified when tried 
by this test For instance, orange and blue is said 
by Mr. Hay (Principles of Colourings p. 57) to make 
a harsher contrast, and one which stands in greater 
need of modification than any other junction of 
complementaries. (Orange and blue are comple- 

v.] TASTE, 20I 

mentaries in the artistic though not in the scientific 
arrangement.) These two colours are the chief 
emblems of sunshine. The flag which the sun un- 
furls in the heavens is of azure blue, and at the 
same time the increase of light colours all visible 
objects orange. The supposed harshness may be 
the excessive sentiment of glare and heat. But the 
truth is that it is almost a waste of time to discuss 
a question where sure data are wanting. Some 
other authority may have said — and I think it has 
been said — that blue and orange produce a speci- 
ally agreeable mixture. The whole value of the 
theory of complementary colour is destroyed by the 
fact that science gives a different list of primaries. 
Though yellow and blue pigments mixed together 
produce green, the green rays cannot be resolved 
into yellow and blue. These colours united form 
white, and yellow itself is formed by the union of 
green and red. If the composition of the composite 
ray determines the harmonic effect, yellow and 
blue should form a satisfactory combination. The 
received opinion is that this combination is un- 

Archaeologists have proved that in Peru, as well 
as in the old world, gold was the emblem of the sun, 
and have reasonably conjectured that the yellow 
colour of this metal made it appropriate for this 


purpose. It is the colour which most nearly repre- 
sents white, and is visible at a greater distance than 
any colour except white. Nevertheless it is the 
symbol of melancholy. To see things yellow is, in 
French, as well as to see things black, the proverbial 
description of a melancholy view. This counter- 
association must, I suppose, be derived from the 
yellow tints of decaying leaves, and of the human 
body in disease or after death. But blue is in this 
country the commoner symbol of melancholy, and 
an Englishman in a depressed frame of mind is said 
to have a fit of the blues. Though this association 
of melancholy and blue cannot be directly explained, 
it may be understood as an instance of the law of 
contrast, into which Darwin has resolved many of 
the expressions in his volume on the Expression 
of the Emotions, Red and blue stand at opposite 
extremes of the list of colours, and as red is the 
emblem of joy, blue becomes the sign of melancholy. 
Pink is a colour which must be put under the head- 
ing of red, and a rose-colour is everywhere emble- 
matic of cheerfulness. There is a beautiful Greek 
epigram, the sentiment of which has been expressed 
in a thousand ways — 

" TO p68ov aKfid^ii /Baiov xpovov, r]v 8k irapkXd'QS 
fiytwv evfyqcreis ov poSov dXXa' fSdfov" 

Johnson translated this — 

v.] TASTE, 203 

^* Soon fades the rose ; once past the fragrant hour, 
The loiterer finds a bramble for a flower." 

But the epithet fragrant which is introduced does 
not appear in the Greek, and the colour, not the 
scent, of the rose has made it the symbol of pleasure. 
Scotland's great poet gives us the clue to this 
mystery. The line — 

" O, my luve's like a red, red rose *' — 

contains the history of the supreme attraction which 
this colour possesses, and which has been transferred 
to the whole class of red colours. Both sexes have 
submitted to the spell, and acknowledged the charm 
of the ruddy hues of youth and health. When the 
Daughters of Jerusalem in the Song of Solomon 
questioned their companion about the extraordinary 
merit of her Beloved, she replied, " My beloved is 
ruddy and white, the chiefest among ten thousand." 
A more potent influence than the warmth of the 
sun's rays has been at work here, and ancient history 
reveals some singular traces of it Both in Italy 
and other countries the archaic images of the Deities 
were painted red, and the traditional practice was, in 
some cases, long continued. It has been said that 
this practice was intended to please "the colour- 
sense," by which is meant that these images were 
regarded as pretty gewgaws. This is not likely, and 


the true explanation is that the colour red was sacred. 
All pristine creeds can, with some probability, be 
traced ultimately to two origins. They are, in 
different disguises, the worship of the sun and the 
worship of humanity. Yellow is the sacred colour 
of sun-worship ; red is consecrated to the worship of 
humanity. Red became, therefore, an exceptionally 
odious colour when the ascetic temper gained pos- 
session of religion. The author of the Wisdom of 
Solomon betrays a profound antipathy in the follow- 
ing passage : — " Or made it like some vile beast, lay- 
ing it over with vermilion, and with paint colouring 
it red, and covering every spot therein." The coating 
of vermilion was plainly offensive to him, and he 
describes in another place the voluptuary as crying, 
** Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they 
are withered." Afterwards a fresh association was 
added, and scarlet typified not only the sins of 
Babylon, but their punishment. When Dante in his 
Vision approached the Infernal City, he saw that the 
towers in it were scarlet, as if they were just out of 
the furnace. The universal custom of sacrifice is, 
perhaps, connected with this feeling. The pouring 
out of the blood represents the submission of man 
to a higher power, because red is the emblem of 
humanity. Philological research has supplied a curious 
confirmation of the view that red was a sacred colour 


v.] TASTE, 205 

in primitive life. In the Ilchester Lectures delivered 
at Oxford on the Slavic and Latin languages by Dr. 
Carl Abel, it is said that in the Great Russian dialect 
there was one word for good and for the colour red. 
"Khoroschi, probably an etymological development 
of the root * kras/ meaning red, in the Little Russian 
mostly keeps to the sensuous sphere, and, getting no 
farther than a very slight metaphor will carry it, 
signifies * pleasing,' * beautiful ' ; in Great Russian, on 
the other hand, the word at a leap passes from the 
signification * pleasing ' into that of * good.' " {Slavic 
and Latifiy Carl Abel, Ph.D., 1883, p. 35.) This 
shows that it is not an extravagant conjecture that 
red was a sacred colour wherever the ascetic temper 
had not triumphed. At the same time an associa- 
tion with warmth has always contributed to the 
same result. Although pure reds are comparatively 
rare in nature, the relatively high value which they 
obtain, as light becomes more intense, and they are 
contrasted with a blue background, tends to increase 
their reputation. Such bright reds as may be seen, 
as for instance in the petals of flowers, become more 
brilliant, and all visible objects acquire a reddish 
tinge. The fires of Phoebus and of Cupid are alike 
symbolised by the reds. Bacchanalian songsters 
have felt the instinct, and " red " or " ruby " is the 
favourite epithet of wine. Anacreon in one of his 


Odes declares that he will seek inspiration in 
draughts of red wine, irlvtov ipvOpov olvov, 0€\(o 
BeKto fiainjvai, and the epithet " red " is not simply 
ornate, but indicates a fiercer passion. Though it is 
not easy to test the tastes of savages or children, 
a bright red is, I imagine, the most attractive of 
colours. It may be added that, if Darwin has 
rightly explained how nature has painted the birds, 
some influence must have been at work in the 
history of man which has not touched them. Though 
all the colours, scarlet among them, are displayed in 
the plumage of birds, this colour is not so common 
as it would be if they had ever identified good 
and red. 

The taste of landscape painters for sombre colours 
may be in part a sentimental preference for red ; for 
they cannot altogether disregard the natural colours, 
and most of these become brown when infused with 
red. But the necessity, explained by Professor 
Helmholtz, of qualifying the tones in order to make 
the representation true, has most influence. They 
are compelled by their limited scale of light and 
dark to reject pure colours where these violate the 
relative truth. For this reason yellow is the colour . 
which is most valuable where rightly used, most 
fatal when misapplied. It is composed of green and 
red, which contain all the larger waves, and is for 

v.] TASTE. 207 

this reason the aptest representation of light The 
fashionable taste for sombre colours in dress has a 
different origin. It is in part caused by a just 
desire to select such colours as give the greatest 
value to the natural colours of the complexion, but 
is also a protest against the natural taste. Fashions 
are always in part artificial distinctions between the 
rich and poor, or the reputable and disreputable 
classes. The fashion of tight- lacing in women has 
this origin. Lecturers on this subject point to the 
Greek statues to enforce their maxims ; but it appears 
from a passage in the Eunuchus of Terence that a 
similar practice was usual in Athens, and that the 
natural shape was not thought genteel. 

The tastes for form must have, like all others, a 
remote origin, and as the forms of the human body 
alone interest the untutored savage, these alone can 
have given them. Two peculiarities which distinguish 
animal organism are especially conspicuous in the 
human body. i. There is an absolute bilateral 
symmetry. The eyes, the ears, and the limbs are 
pairs, of which the outer and inner forms differ, but 
which correspond as wholes to each other. The head, 
the nose, the mouth, the trunk, which do not form 
pairs, are characterised by the bilateral equality. A 
constant contemplation of this mysterious synthesis 
gave rise in early speculation to the belief that there 


IS in thie nature of things a law that " all things are 
double one against another." Many fantastic theories 
were formed in this way. It was supposed in one 
form of Pythagorean philosophy that there is a 
counter -world, avTLyQxav, on the opposite side of 
the sun which corresponds to this world. The sun 
was supposed to stand in the centre, like the trunk 
of the human body, and to have on each side of it 
a world — two arms, that is. This idea of a centre 
with two symmetrical sides is the fundamental idea 
of architectural construction. Taste is shocked when 
it is violated in an important building, and even a 
lopsided room, though it may be quite convenient 
and quite secure, is displeasing to taste. But a large 
part of the architectural tastes are dependent on 
mechanical laws, and are semi-rational preferences 
which admit logical or rational criticism. Even 
colour may be rationally treated, within certain 
limits, by a reference to mechanical considerations. 
An association has been formed by experience 
between dark colours and solidity. The only trans- 
lucent substances which are very common are the 
fluids air and water. As the solid substances which 
intercept light become in this way associated with 
dark colour, it is more suitable to taste that the 
lower parts of a structure should be dark and the 
upper light, than that this arrangement should be 

v.] TASTE, 209 

reversed. I do not know whether this principle 
would be conceded ; but we have in London a 
celebrated work of art which allows it to be tested. 
In the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park a dark mass 
is superimposed on a white basis. If this arrange- 
ment pleases the spectator's taste the principle is 
worthless for him ; if he thinks that the structure as 
a whole wants dignity, this may be the explanation; 
2. The second peculiarity of animal organism, which 
is conspicuous in man, is the long series of curves of 
different shape and magnitude which the muscles 
form as they overlap each other. I think that the 
mysterious attraction of "the flowing line," about 
which so much has been written, must be derived 
from this, and that Plato's instinct was true when 
he said that artistic forms give a pleasure which 
resembles the pleasure of scratching ; for he meant 
by this phrase what Shaftesbury intended by the 
term "the brutish part." Hence the serpent has, 
like the colour red, a double significance in religion. 
Its folds represent the flowing line, and it was the 
symbol of health in Greek mythology, and has been 
deified in various creeds which are not historically 
related to each other. 

The musical taste is the most mysterious, and has 
caused the most speculation. The popiilar theory is 

described in the language of poetry by Dryden in 



the ode on St Cecilia, called " Alexander's Feast" 
Cecilia drew an angel down : that is, the taste for 
music has a supernatural origin. The most faithful 
adherents to the theory of evolution seem reluctant 
to allow that Darwin's theory contains the truth ; but 
if it is rejected a supernatural cause of some kind 
must be assigned to the taste for music. The first 
sentence of the passage which follows has reference 
to the theory of musical taste which Mr. H. Spencer 
gave : "This remark holds good whether we believe 
that the various qualities of the voice originated in 
speaking under the excitement of strong feelings, and 
that these qualities have been subsequently trans- 
ferred to vocal music, or whether we believe, as I 
maintain, that the habit of uttering musical sounds 
was first developed as a means of courtship in the 
early progenitors of man, and thus became associated 
with the strongest emotions of which they are capable 
— namely ardent love, rivalry, and triumph. That 
animals utter musical notes is familiar to every one, 
as we may daily hear in the singing of birds. It is 
a more remarkable fact that an ape, one of the 
Gibbons, produces an exact octave of musical sounds, 
ascending and descending the scale by half-tones, so 
that this monkey alone of brute animals may be said 
to sing. From this fact, and from the analogy of other 
animals, I have been led to infer that the progenitors 

v.] TASTE, 2H 

of man probably uttered musical tones before they 
had acquired articulate speech, and that consequently 
when the voice is used under any strong emotion it 
tends to assume, through the principle of association, a 
musical character." {Expression of the Emotions^ p. 8 7.) 
It must, I presume, be understood in this theory 
that a musical sound has an effect on feeling peculiar 
to itself, antecedently to, and apart from, any effect 
which association forms. It is certain that it may 
have, for dogs — at any rate some dogs — ^are made 
restless by musical notes, and testify to their feeling 
by howling, if they are not accustomed to them. 
The theory, then, is that the deeper effect which 
music has on emotion is the result of an association. 
Some peculiarities may be observed in musical tastes 
which suit this theory, but which cannot be, or at 
least have not been, explained in any other way. 
The most remarkable of these is that although 
women are keenly sensitive to music, have admirable 
taste, — ^being perhaps superior to men in this respect, 
— and are at least equal to men as executants, the 
long bead-roll of composers does not contain a 
single female name which would in the opinion of 
most judges be put even in the second rank. There 
have not, it is true, been many female sculptors or 
painters of high repute, but there have been and are 
some. But the singularity is that the art of music is 


the one which women have chiefly cultivated, while 
etiquette and custom have interposed some difficulties 
in the practice of painting and sculpture. Let the 
article on Pianoforte Music in Grove's Dictionary be 
explored, and it will be seen that even in this depart- 
ment — the specially female province— composition is 
almost entirely a masculine faculty. What can be 
thought of this except that the males were the 
composers when the taste was* fixed, and have 
retained their primaeval privilege ? A second peculi- 
arity is that the taste for music displays itself in an 
unaccountably capricious manner, and that we find 
an absolute insensibility in one and a violent passion 
in another, although nothing in accidental circum- 
stances of life or education explains this difference. 
Shakespeare, whose love of music was strong, seems 
to have thought that a deficiency of this taste was a 
symptom of moral depravity ; but he was certainly 
mistaken about this. Many amiable and illustrious 
men, of whom Alison seems to have been one, have 
been perplexed by the evidence of a feeling to which 
they were strangers ; and a distinguished author, no 
longer alive, whom his very enemies, if he had any, 
would not have accused of a turn for treasons and 
stratagems, once told me that he was absolutely 
insensible to musical quality. All the facts which 
Darwin collected to prove the uncertain reappearance 

v.] TASTE. 213 

of the characteristics of ancestors tend to give prob- 
ability to the view that the uncertainty of musical 
taste is an instance of this law. No scheme of 
supernatural causation accounts for this caprice of 
nature, nor can it be connected with natural causes 
otherwise than by the supposition that these causes 
have long ceased to operate. But intermediate 
between the lover of music and the cynical adversary, 
to whom it is " no better than the rattles of children," 
stands the doubtful friend, who is said to have a "bad 
ear." This defect is of a wholly different kind from 
the one known as colour-blindness. The latter 
defect is caused by an insensibility of the nerves of 
the eye to vibrations of a certain magnitude. The 
unfortunate owner of a "bad ear" recognises the 
intervals of the musical vibrations, but for some 
reason does not recognise them correctly. As it is 
impossible to compare one person's feelings with 
another's, it is impossible to gauge the amount of 
satisfaction which those whose ear is bad derive from 
music. But as the defect seems to be an intermediate 
stage between the true taste and the total extinction, 
the presumption is that the gratification is fainter. 
Unfortunately for the rest of the world it is frequently 
sufficient to inspire a misplaced ambition to sing or 
whistle tunes, and most persons must sometimes have 
endured the torment of a prolonged melody in which 


every note was false. It is a curious fact that 
persons with a defective ear sometimes attempt to 
study instrumental music. When a keyed instrument 
is selected the radical defect may escape notice for a 
time, but is certainly detected where mechanism has 
not fixed the intervals. Professors of the violin have 
often been obliged, either by a regard for their own 
nerves or by conscience, to explain to their pupil that 
there is a pons asinorum which he cannot pass. 
False notes in singing are of course not always a sign 
of this defect, but may be simply a vocal defect. 

The science of taste was invented in Germany by 
Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, and the oblivion 
into which his name has fallen is a notable instance 
of the ingratitude which mankind have often shown 
to great discoverers. It has, however, been in this 
instance more pardonable than in some others, for 
Baumgarten has, in his barbarous and uncouth Latin, 
revealed the truth with a natveti which must be in- 
convenient to those who would fain think that a 
valuable addition was made to the list of sciences 
when ^Esthetic was introduced to the world. "iEs- 
thetica," he begins "(theoria liberalium artium, gnoseo- 
logid. inferior, ars pulchre cogitandi, ars analogi 
rationis) est scientia cognitionis sensitivae." In this 
passage we find the misuse of the term Liberal Art, 
which has played so great a part in the dissemination 

v.] TASTE. 21$ 

of this theory* ** ^Esthetic," he says, " the theory of 
the Liberal Arts, inferior to gnoseology (ije, true 
science), the art of beautiful thought, the art of some- 
thing which is analogous to reason, is the science of 
sense -cognition." One step is made in this sen- 
tence : " ^Esthetic is the science of sense-cognition." 
The original meaning of the word (esthetic justifies 
this ; but as this assertion would not by itself assist 
him, he slips in the words, " the art of beautiful 
thought." He must then connect sense -cognition 
with " beautiful thought" This union is effected in 
the following manner : — " iEsthetices finis est per- 
fectio cognitionis sensitive, qud talis ; haec autem est 
pulchritudo." " The end of aesthetic is the perfection 
of sense-cognition as such ; but this is beauty." In 
this manner poetry is connected with the other Fine 
Arts, which was his object The assertion that beauty 
is the end of sense-cognition might, of course, be 
disputed ; but we will here pass over this question for 
the sake of considering the question whether the 
beauty of beautiful thought and the beauty of sense- 
cognition are, as is assumed in Baumgarten's argu- 
ment, one and the same, or whether this is only a 
play upon words. An objection presents itself, even 
if we take the case as stated by him. ^Esthetic, he 
says, is the art of beautiful thought, and the science 
of sense. He is conscious of this difficulty, but gets 


out of it by the help of an imaginary dialogue, the 
most convenient way of conquering objections which 
o Oiavv Bui<l>v\dTra)v has ever invented. An imagin- 
ary opponent says: "^Esthetic is an art, not a science." 
He reduces this supposed antagonist to silence by 
saying, ** These are not oppositi habitus. For a great 
many occupations which were formerly arts are now 
sciences." Nevertheless, as he progresses in his 
argument, he becomes very candid, and makes the 
following curious admission : — " Est, ergo, Veritas 
a^thetica a potiori dicta verisimilitudo, ille veritatis 
gradus, qui etiamsi non evectus sit ad completam 
certitudinem, tamen nihil contineat falsitatis obser- 
vabilis." {/Esthetica^ S. 483.) Other writers have 
been bolder, and by affecting a complete certitude 
have admitted a falsitas observabUis, But his theory 
is that science comes under two heads, which he 
names respectively Logico-dogmaticum and ^sthetioh 
dogmaticum. The dogmaticum of the latter class 
subsequently waxed very great, and swallowed up 
the astheticum. Baumgarten's invention, however, 
remained in obscurity until Richter adopted it, and 
Carlyle seems to think that Richter's treatise on 
-/Esthetic is the one which will do most to keep his 
reputation alive. The treatise of Baumgarten was 
not finished, and is, as it stands, little more than a 
verbose recoction of the work known as Longinus 

v.] T'ASTE. 217 

on the Sublime^ dealing exclusively with poetic 
literature ; but his intention was to make good with 
regard to the other arts what he borrowed from 
Longinus about poetic quality. Richter's ^Esthetic 
resembles it in this, though it differs in style, and the 
chief difference between the German and English 
modes of defending the science of Taste is that our 
writers hide in tortuous phrases their meagre principle 
that exactness of imitation is the test of excellence; 
the German writers discuss poetic literature, and tell 
their readers that whatever holds good of literature 
holds good of music, painting, statuary, and architec- 
ture. The most popular definition of the Fine Arts is 
derived from Baumgarten's treatise. They are said to 
produce The Beautiful, or the sense of The Beautiful. 
Although a pedantic fidelity to the original use of 
words is absurd when a change of meaning is wanted, 
it is not irrational to ask how it can have happened 
that the Greek nation never required such a use of 
the term cesthetic as was introduced by him. It is no 
answer that science has made great progress. The 
sciences which have advanced have been the physical 
sciences ; but if there is an aesthetic science in the 
modem sense, the Greek philosophers must have been 
blind to an elementary truth of mental philosophy. 
It is far more probable that facts have been strained 
in order to frame an explanation of a newly-observed 


phenomenon. Baumgarten's essay was written in the 
eariy part of the eighteenth century, when the strange 
fascination which the arts of music and painting 
exercise on their votaries was first observed, and was 
intended to account for this. Though he does not 
name Bach, and though Bach's great fame was not 
then established, it is not impossible that the wave 
of feeling which his genius had stirred had reached 
Baumgarten and prompted his speculation, as it is 
certain that Burke's Essay on Taste was the result of 
an attempt to discover what is the meaning of " the 
beautiful " in music. 

Bouillet, influenced, like many French authors, by 
the fact that poetry is not included in the list of 
subjects which belong to the Acad^mie des Beaux 
Arts, leaves it out, and defines the other arts as 
follows : — ** On r^unit sous ce nom tous les arts qui 
ont pour but de charmer les sens par la culture du 
beau. Les arts du dessin (Peinture, Sculpture, 
Gravure, Architecture), La Musique, La Danse." 
{Dictionnaire des Sciences^ des Lettres^ des Arts — 
Les Beaux Arts) Definitions like this have been 
given of all the arts, including poetry, and Baum- 
garten's first point is that this definition takes in 
poetry. But if we omit poetry for the moment, and 
examine Bouillet's list alone, it is plain that the word 
"beautiful" is employed in an unusual manner. 

v.] TASTE, 219 

Kant, Burke, and other writers, who have investi- 
gated the nature of " the beautiful," uninfluenced by 
a desire to define the Fine Arts, have drawn a dis- 
tinction between the Sublime and the Beautiful, which 
is dropped in this definition. Burke, who was free 
from prejudice or bias in his investigation of "the 
beautiful," arrived at the following result: — "The 
beautiful in music will not bear that loudness and 
strength of sounds which may be used to raise other 
passions, nor notes which are shrill or harsh or deep. 
It agrees best with such as are clear, even, smooth, 
and weak." It is not necessary to insist on the 
perfect accuracy of this, and it might be varied in 
some way ; but some distinction of this kind is drawn 
by all who allow a difference between the Sublime 
and Beautiful. It is, however, quite obvious that 
Burke's definition, even if modified, would entirely 
condemn and exclude from the list of works of art 
a large part of the compositions of Handel. What 
would he have said if informed that the Fine Arts 
produce the beautiful, and that this in music agrees 
best with notes which are clear, smooth, even, and 
weak ? But the objection does not end here. The 
Fine Arts produce emotions which exist only as 
contrasted states of feeling. The odes of Collins 
and the music of Chopin cause a sentiment of melan- 
choly ; John Gilpin and the music of Offenbach a 


feeling of gaiety. When two contrasted states of 
mind are united under one term, all meaning is lost 
At the same time it is clear that, unless this defini- 
tion contradicted the common use of words, it would 
be worthless. Let us take a particular instance. Every 
one will admit that the word beautiful is employed 
consistently with usage when a face is called beauti- 
ful. But if one who had admired a beautiful face 
were to ask a philosophical friend to tell him why it 
was beautiful, and were to receive for answer the 
statement that it was beautiful because it excited a 
sense of the beautiful, the futility of such an expla- 
nation would be obvious. The definition that the 
Fine Arts produce a sense of beauty is satisfactory 
because as words are commonly used they produce 
some feeling besides the sense of beauty. Conse- 
quently the definition is not of a purely verbal kind, 
but has some meaning. The question then is what 
is the information which this definition conveys ? Is 
it solely that the speaker chooses to use the word 
beautiful in an unusual manner, or does it cast any 
light on the nature of the Fine Arts ? If the former 
is the answer, the definition is plainly worthless. If 
the only answer given when a definition is required 
of the word " beautiful," is that whatever the Fine 
Arts produce is beautiful, the whole problem remains 
exactly where it was. We learn nothing except 

v.] TASTE, 221 

that the speaker chooses to call some things beauti- 
ful which are not usually so described. But if the 
answer is that the definition casts a light on the 
nature of the Fine Arts, this can only be true on 
the hypothesis that there is some quality in works 
of art called beauty, common to them all, which 
makes them attractive ; in other words, that there is 
an entity called beauty. In this manner the science 
of aesthetic requires a hypothetical sense called the 
aesthetic sense. If there is a " beautiful " common 
to the sublime and the beautiful, and also common 
to mental perception and to sense perception (which 
is the assumption), there must be, besides the 
ordinary mental perceptions and sense perceptions, 
some other faculty which detects the beautiful in its 
various modes of being. The philosophers of Greece 
were ignorant that there is an aesthetic sense, and 
the acquisitions of modern science make it hard to 
understand how there can be an entity called The 
Beautiful. There was a time when it was supposed 
that sounds, heat, and colours, have what Coleridge 
would have called an objective existence. It was 
thought that there were qualities in things which 
correspond to feelings, and that sound, heat, and 
colour might continue to exist after all sentient 
creatures had been annihilated. It is very well 
known now that this is not true, and that these 


sensations are caused by molecular movements of 
different kinds. Some metaphysicians go so far as 
to think that nothing would be left if sentience were 
annihilated ; but the doctrine that only motion of 
different kinds would be left is a deduction from ex- 
perimental science, and not a metaphysical specula- 
tion. If, therefore, we must suppose that beauty is 
an entity, and that when the word beautiful is used 
something more is meant than that a given combina- 
tion of sounds, colours, or thoughts, produces a sense 
of gratification, we must suppose that the beauty of 
music can exist when no sound is audible, and of 
pictures when nothing is visible. This is the alter- 
native which meets the definition that the Fine Arts 
produce a sense of beauty. It either means that in 
works of art combinations are found which in some 
way gratify the spectator or auditor, in which case 
the definition is worthless, for it is admitted ex 
'hypothesi or vi terminorum that the Fine Arts gratify ; 
or else it means that if all sentient beings were 
destroyed, there would remain, sole occupants of the 
universe, a number of vibrations and The Beautiful. 
The truth is that both this definition and the science 
of Beauty grow out of the ill-repute into which the 
physical sense of taste has fallen. Poets and artists 
present combinations which please the understanding 
and the senses of seeing and hearing ; cooks present 

v.] TASTE. 223 

combinations which gratify the palate. The former 
set of combinations may be called beautiful with 
propriety, but it is thought vulgar to call a good 
dinner beautiful. It is therefore supposed that there 
is a something called " beauty " in the former set of 
combinations, which does not exist in the latter, and 
the further inference is drawn that this something 
must have an appropriate science and be discoverable 
by a peculiar sense. But this kind of argument is 
unworthy of this enlightened age. The doctrine of 
modem philosophy is that words are an indication 
of the opinions of those who use them, but are no 
proof of the nature of things. The fact that the 
educated half of mankind agree to call poems, 
pictures, and pieces of music beautiful, though they 
refuse to call agreeable combinations of food beauti- 
ful, is only an indication that they recognise a 
general similarity in the feeling of gratification 
which the former class produce, and that they are 
unwilling to apply the same eulogistic epithet to the 
pleasure of eating and drinking. The a posteriori 
proof that there is no science of aesthetic, is as com- 
plete as the a priori. The word was introduced with 
the pretence that intellectual beauty is the same as 
sensuous beauty. There is absolutely no reason or 
excuse for the word cesthetic except this. Never- 
theless writers on aesthetic are obliged to separate 

224 NATURE OF THE FINE ARTS. [chap. v. 

the two uses, and take one or the other. The 
German treatises on the rules of Hteraiy criticism 
may be valuable or worthless, but there is not the 
slightest reason for calling them aesthetic. The 
term was introduced by Baumgarten with the pretext 
that it was possible to lay down a set of rules which 
would be equally applicable to poetic literature and 
to the arts of sense. Neither he, nor any one else, 
has yet done this. 



Attempts are sometimes made to distinguish be- 
tween the meanings of the words fancy and imagina- 
tion, though there does not seem to be any definite 
distinction commonly recognised. We can speak of 
the poet*s fancy or the poet's imagination, where the 
terms are eulogistic; and, on the other hand, the 
ailments of the hypochondriac may be called either 
fanciful or imaginary, where the epithets are con- 
temptuous. Generally, however, imagination is a 
word of more honourable meaning than fancy. It 
is rather more contemptuous to describe the troubles 
of the hypochondriac as fanciful, than to call them 
imaginary. The chief difference is that imagination 
is a term commonly applied to the fabrication of a 
complete mental series, while the word fancy is used 
when the images or sensations which occur are 
separate and unconnected. Hippolyta, in the Mid- 
summer Nights Dreamy having heard the story of 



the lovers who spent the night in the wood, observes 
that it grows to something of great constancy and 
witnesseth to more than fancy's images. Never- 
theless, this story was, in fact, only a tissue of fancy's 
images which had grown to great constancy in 
Shakespeare's mind. But Shakespeare had in the 
previous passage employed the term imagination 
when describing the process by which such scenes 
are manufactured. The test, therefore, in this case is 
that the products of fancy want a rational connexion, 
while those of imagination are coherent. As the 
words are commonly used, this difference may be 
observed. If, for instance, some one thinks that he 
hears a sound which bystanders do not hear, sup- 
posing no explanation is forthcoming, the terni fancy 
is usual ; but if some explanation can be suggested, 
if, for instance, the supposed sound is the voice of an 
absent friend, who is known to be in danger, the 
term imagination suggests itself The delusion is 
here connected with the fact that there was a previous 
interest in the friend's safety, and, a cause having 
been found, imagination is the more appropriate 
term. There results from this difference a kind of 
antagonism between the two terms, as is implied in 
Shakespeare's words. Coherence is a test of truth, 
and though imagination as a mode of fancy gives to 
airy nothing a local habitation and a name, this airy 


nothing must be allowed to exist when all things 
conspire to affirm its reality. Science, accordingly, 
as well as art, employs imagination. A familiar in- 
stance is in astronomical observations where, the 
existence of a planet has been imagined in order to 
explain a deviation from the calculated path of other 
planets, and observation has subsequently proved 
that the imagined planet is not imaginary. Even in 
a wider sense imagination may be allowed a place in 
science. If etymological propriety were strictly 
observed, the term would be employed only when the 
corresponding term image can be employed. But it 
is not thus restricted in ordinary language, and 
fallacies of argument always find their way in, when 
words are used in unusual senses. It is impossible 
to deny that sounds can be imagined, though sounds 
are not images. It is impossible to deny that the 
gounnandy who thinks with satisfaction of the ap- 
proaching dinner, enjoys a pleasure of the imagina- 
tion, though it cannot be said that the pleasure of 
eating and drinking constitutes an image. Ideas 
are imagined as well as images. Newton imagined 
a universal attraction extending through all space, 
and all who adopt the Newtonian theory exercise 
their imagination. They imagine not only suns and 
worlds which form images, but also attraction which 
exists as an idea. Those who insist on the identity 


of art and science make the most of this fact Great 
discoverers, they say, are indebted to their imagina- 
tion, like great poets ; and the inference is drawn 
that Wordsworth and other poets who have betrayed 
an anti-scientific sentiment are the victims of pre- 
judice and ignorance. Nevertheless, an unbiassed 
examination of the facts will prove that this senti- 
ment is well founded. Science employs imagination 
in so far as it is a part of every mental operation, 
but always restricts its province as much as possible, 
and does not allow fancy*s images to be permanent. 
Let it be granted that the thought of a universal 
attraction extending through all space implied imagi- 
nation, and that it has been invaluable in science. 
It is not the less true that its value lies in the fact 
that less is laid on the imagination in this theory 
than any other. To take one instance out of many. 
Nature was formerly said to abhor a vacuum. 
Imagination was asked to credit an unknown some- 
thing called " nature " with the feeling of hatred ; 
then nature was credited with a power of pushing 
matter in order to gratify this feeling of hatred. 
Imagination rebelled when it was found that either 
nature did not hate very large voids, or could not 
gratify its feeling in such cases. If all the earlier 
theories of every kind of motion are examined, it 
will be found that, as in this instance, the imagi- 


native element is greater than in the Newtonian 
theory, and science accepts the latter for the sake of 
what it excludes, not for what it adds. Again, it 
may be said that Darwin was indebted to imagina- 
tion, that facts and observations may be accumulated 
for ever, but would remain sterile if imagination did 
not lend her aid. The answer is still the same. 
More was required of imagination when separate acts 
of creation were supposed, and Darwin's theory was 
welcome because it removed the necessity of imagining 
these. If imagination plays the same part in science 
and art, the description of the creation must be a 
blot in Paradise Lost, It is, indeed, so obvious that 
the imaginary is not co-extensive with that which 
can be imagined, that an apology seems to be due 
to the reader for adverting to this elementary truth ; 
but so much misplaced ingenuity has been exercised 
to prove that the Fine Arts, and especially the art of 
painting, are arts of the understanding and not of the 
imagination, that the point could not be omitted. 
A foolish kind of optimism prevails everywhere, and 
the heir of all the ages tries to forget that there is a 
law of compensation, and that qualities have their 
defects while defects have their qualities. He hears 
the praises of science chanted, and he will not endure 
the suspicion that he is unscientific. Art also is 
lauded, and he cannot bear to have it thought that 


he IS unartistic. Every device is employed to bridge 
over the chasm, but the truth cannot be suppressed, 
and art and science protest in turns against the in- 
trusion of the other. Goethe was the incarnation 
of the modem sentiment, and he had what is called 
" the courage of his opinions." He declaimed angrily 
against Newton's application of mathematical science 
to the investigation of light, because he saw that 
science in Newton's hands was unpoetical. In his 
own theory, if it deserves to be called a theory, a 
number of idolay or airy nothings, were forged, and 
he could not forgive the dry light which cast a doubt 
on their existence. He had imagined different kinds 
of colours, and he clung to the belief, that what he 
had imagined was not imaginary. Carlyle's senti- 
ment about history was similar. Dryasdust was his 
Newton. Dryasdust represents in Carlyle's writings 
the exact and laborious inquirer whose researches 
were inconvenient, because they cast discredit on the 
theory that history is moulded by heroic characters 
of an extraordinary type, and Carlyle wished, like 
Goethe, to leave the imagination unfettered. We 
can distinguish between three uses of the word irfi- 
agination. There is first the sense in which the 
word fancy is more common. Here imagination is 
the supposed cause of the imaginary ; it is that which 
gives birth to a delusion. In the next place, there 


is the poetic or artistic imagination, which, accepting 
the imaginary as such, permits fancy's images to be 
fertile, and thus connects them with other images. 
There is, lastly, the imagination of science which 
discards the imaginary, when proved to be such. It 
is with reference to the fertility of the artistic imagina- 
tion that Shakespeare puts into one class the lunatic, 
the lover, and the poet ; but inasmuch as the rational 
connexion is less perfect in the lunatic, who does not 
recognise the imaginary as such, than in the poet, 
who does, the former would more usually be called 
the slave of. fancy than of imagination. Poetry is 
called creation, because in it the imaginary is accepted. 
Science is not creation, because it rejects the imagin- 
ary. But the theory of poetry does not end here. 
The materials of thought must be found, and a true 
or complete creation is impossible. Imagination is 
only a form of memory. All systems of philosophy 
agree in this. Some, like Plato's, suppose a prior 
stage of existence, or a supernatural origin ; others 
derive the materials which imagination employs from 
the actual state of existence, and allow only a natural 
origin ; none suppose the possibility of making 
thought out of nothing. The theory of poetry as 
creative art, accordingly, takes two forms. On the 
one hand, the poet is supposed to be a channel 
through which a stream flows whose source is un- 


known. The poet is said to be inspired. On the 
other hand, he is supposed to possess a faculty of 
seeing more than others see, and of painting what he 
sees. The poet is called a painter. The former of 
these two views prevailed in classical Greece. This 
does not imply that all the Greeks seriously believed 
that the poet was inspired ; but the doctrine was 
current as a formal explanation of poetic quality, and 
was accepted, just as many persons now accept theo- 
logical explanations about which they may feel scep- 
tical from time to time, when they reflect on them. 
But this doctrine had lost all meaning when the 
civilisation of Rome succeeded to that of Greece. 
Roman authors repeated it, but it was only a trick 
of words in their mouths. Horace calls the poet a 
vates saceTy but was perfectly conscious that he him- 
self owed everything to the literary file and the 
midnight lamp, and nothing to a divine phrenzy. 
At the same time another change had occurred. 
A spirit of historical criticism has been aroused. 
The Greeks, with some few exceptions, did not 
trouble themselves about historical evidence. They 
took the plays of -^schylus for history, without 
curiously inquiring how -^schylus could know all 
which he seemed to know. This acquiescent faith 
was a natural accompaniment of the doctrine that 
the poet was inspired. The Romans were more 


rationalistic, and understood that narrative is not 
always history. Simultaneously with the notion of 
lyrical poetry as pure art, was formed the notion of 
epic poetry, and Virgil rewrote the Iliad with a 
perfect consciousness that he was not a historian, 
as Horace rewrote the lyrics of Greece with a 
perfect knowledge that he was not inspired. A 
void was thus left in the theory of poetry. The 
older doctrine remained only as a fashionable phrase 
without meaning, and it was necessary to find a 
substitute. This substitute was imagination. The 
poet became a painter, who described what he saw, 
and ceased to be the mouthpiece or irresponsible 
instrument of the Deity. At the same time, it was 
impossible to forget that the difficulty was only 
shirked in this way, and that the question still re- 
mained why the poet saw more than others. Genius 
— ingenium — was accordingly introduced as the- 
primary supposed cause of poetic quality. In this 
vaguer and obscurer shape the doctrine of inspiration 
was tolerated. The poet was credited with genius — 
genius gave him imagination — imagination enabled 
him to paint. The Roman theory is contained in 
the treatise on the Sublime^ which bears the name of 
Longinus, and the difference between the Greek and 
Roman theories is apparent when the language of 
Longinus is compared with classical Greek. Three 


distinctions were wanted for the argument which 
classical Greek did not provide: i. A distinction 
between imitation and representation ; 2. Between 
genius and skill ; 3. Between imagination and fancy. 
The first of these three defects was irreparable. The 
second was imperfectly remedied by an occasional 
use of the word ^vcrt? or nature, sometimes by a 
periphrasis, such as to irepl tcl^ voriaei^ dBpcTni^oXov^ 
sometimes an equivalent, such as to fieyd\o<f>pov or 
TO fi€yaXo<f>vi^. The third deficiency was easily 
rectified by a slight expansion of the meaning of the 
word phantasia. It would, perhaps, be an exaggera- 
tion to affirm that phantasia never bore the mean- 
ing of imagination in writings of the earlier period. 
It is exceedingly unlikely that any absolute demar- 
cations can be found in general questions of this 
kind. Stobaeus reports Aristotle's opinion as fol- 
lows : — 'A/)tcrT0T€X^9 <f>avTaa-iav S' elvai irdBo^ ti /cal 
Kivrj<nv Ttj^ KWT ivifTfeiav alaO'qaea)^. ilvofida-0ac S' 
airo fita^ t&v alo'drfO'itov 7^9 opdaeoa^, r^ i^alveaOaL 
iraph TO <f>do^ ^X^tv tt/v iTrlpprjaiv. tovto S' olxelov 
elvai T^9 Syjreoi}^ SuiTelveiv B* et9 Trdaa^ tA9 aladi^a-ei^ 
Kot T^9 BtavorfTiK^^ KLvrjaei^, xal yit,p Tainan ofuovvfUD^ 
TUyeaOai <f>avTaa-lafs. {Physica^ vol. i., p. 50S> ^^' 
Gaisford, 1850.) These terms are perhaps wide 
enough to cover all the uses of imagination. Phan- 
tasiuy Aristotle says, though originally a word used 


of the sense of sight, is used metaphorically of all 
the senses, and even of intellectual operations. It is, 
nevertheless, the fact that, practically, phantasia was 
the equivalent rather of fancy, which has been de- 
rived from it, than of imagination, which is a Latin 
word. But in Longinus it is distinctly imagination. 
Shakespeare's definition is anticipated with remark- 
able completeness in the following passages ; — koK- 
elrai fikv yctp kolvw (f>avTcurCa irav ivvorjfia \oyov 
y€vv7jTi/c6vy oiraxrovv Trapia-rd/Jbevov, iSl(o^ Se cttI 
TOVTfov K€KpdTi]K€ Tovvofuiy oTav h Xcrfp^, irrr ivOov- 
(riaafiov Kal irdBov^ pKhreiv Bo/cy^, xal vtt 6ylrLV ridy^ 
Tot9 cLKovovaiv. " Every thought, however it may 
arise, which is creative of oratory is called phantasia, 
but thl^name has come into use as especially appro- 
priate when, under the influence of mental excitement 
and strong feeling, you seem to see the things which 
you are describing, and set them before the eyes of 
the auditors " (sect xv.) Again, 'Ei/TaO^' o iroi/rjrrf^ 
avTo^ elSep ^^piwva^. h Sk i<f>avTda-0rjy fiiKpov Betv, 
dedaaadai teal tov9 aKovovra^ riva/yKoaev, " There 
the poet (Euripides) himself saw Furies ; and what 
imagination had formed, he almost compelled his 
auditors to see." 'rtiese passages answer to the 
words of Shakespeare : " The poet's eye in a fine 
phrenzy rolling doth glance from heaven to earth, 
from earth to heaven, and as imagination bodies 


forth the forms of things unknown, the poet's pen 
turns them to shapes." It is worth while to observe 
that the most modern in spirit of Greek poets, Euri- 
pides, is selected by Longinus to illustrate his theory, 
and it is evident that in these passages, as through- 
out his treatise, enthusiasmus has insensibly glided 
from the classical sense of inspiration to the sense of 
the modem enthusiasm, ix, mental excitation. This 
change in the theory brought in its train a new cri- 
terion by which poetic merit could be judged. So 
long as the view prevailed that poetry was an uncon- 
trollable torrent of inspired words, the obvious test 
was the effect produced on the emotions of the hearer. 
It might be granted, if the hearer were strongly 
stirred in feeling, that he had heard divine* words, 
though no definite images or conceptions had resulted 
in his mind. When, however, imagination took the 
place of inspiration, this test was not sufficient The 
contention of the poet was now that he saw things 
which others did not see, and it was necessary that 
he should prove this by enabling others to see them. 
He could no longer reply that he was the irrespon- 
sible instrument of a higher power, and that it did 
not belong to him to paint. The accepted theory 
identified him with the painter, and the condition of 
his art was, that he should give an intelligible repre- 
sentation. There was still in the background ingen- 

■ m •■■ ui I I ■ I lari ■ ■ w ^0^^B^ria^iww^pi^^^HiB^p^i^i«^pi^^^«i^^^B^^n«i«plBVVi«^^HaH^qHV^BPV^**S 


/«/« or genius, which allowed a partial escape from 
this obligation ; but genius was theoretically subor- 
dinated to imagination, and poetry became almost 
identical with word - painting. This view existed 
theoretically down to a very recent period, when a 
revulsion of sentiment occurred. Darwin has de- 
scribed the change which took place at the close of 
last century, in the biography of Erasmus Darwin 
which is prefixed to the translation of Krause's 
Erasmus Darwin. " Notwithstanding the former 
high estimation of his (E. Darwin's) poetry by men 
of all kinds in England, no one of the present gen- 
eration reads, as it appears, a single line of it. So 
complete a reversal of judgment within a few years 
is a remarkable phenomenon. . . . But the sudden 
downfall of his fame as a poet was in great part 
caused by the publication of the well-known parody, 
the 'Loves of the Triangles.' No doubt, public 
taste was at this time changing and becoming more 
simple and natural. It was generally acknowledged, 
under the guidance of Wordsworth and Coleridge, 
that poetry was chiefly concerned with the feelings 
and deeper workings of the mind ; whereas Darwin 
maintained that poetry ought chiefly to confine itself 
to the word-painting of visible objects. He remarks 
{Loves of the Plants^ Interlude between Cantos I. 
and II.) that poetry should consist of words which 


express ideas originally received by the organ of 
sight ; * and as our ideas derived from visible objects 
are more distinct than those derived from the objects 
of our other senses, the words expressive of these 
ideas belonging to vision make up the principal part 
of poetic language. That is, the poet writes prin- 
cipally for the eye ; the prose writer uses more ab- 
stracted terms." (P. 95, Erasmus Darwin, by E. 
Krause, translated by W. S. Dallas.) A quotation 
from Addison's first essay on the pleasures of the 
imagination will show how exactly Darwin's theory 
of poetry was in harmony with Addison's opinion. 
" There are few words in the English language which 
are employed in a more loose and uncircumscribed 
sense than those of the Fancy and Imagination. I 
therefore thought it necessary to fix and determine 
the notion of these two words, as I intend to make 
use of them in the thread of my following specula- 
tion, that the reader may rightly conceive what is 
the subject which I proceed upon. I must therefore 
desire him to remember that by the pleasures of the 
imagination, I mean only such pleasures as arise 
originally from sight, and that I divide these plea- 
sures into two kinds : my design being, first of all, 
to discourse of those primary pleasures of the imagi- 
nation which entirely proceed from such objects as 
are before our eyes ; and, in the next place, to speak 


of those secondary pleasures of the imagination which 
flow from the ideas of visible objects, when the 
objects are not actually before the eye, but are called 
up into our memories, or formed into agreeable 
visions of things that are either absent or fictitious." 
Addison's definition is, as he hardly attempts to 
conceal, arbitrary. These secondary pleasures which 
he describes are, as words are commonly used, alone 
pleasures of the imagination, and the pleasures which 
" proceed entirely from such objects as are before 
our eyes," are not so called. The essays are inci- 
dentally on the imagination, but his definition makes 
them on the faculty of vision. Nevertheless, such a 
definition was almost satisfactory till the time came 
when the art of music acquired importance. The 
only way in which Addison's theory could be ex- 
tended so as to make it take in music, was Alison's 
method as above described. It could not be said 
that composer, executant, or auditor, saw the sounds 
either actually or in imagination, but it was just 
possible to pretend that intelligibility is the highest 
excellence. Of course this satisfied no one ; and 
thus with the advance of music the world was re- 
minded that the poet is not simply a word-painter, 
but is an utterer of feeling. The change of opinion 
rapidly gathered strength, and the classical Greek 
theory reappeared as nearly as modern habits of 


thought permit. Lord Tennyson has described the 
poet as one who would fain utter the thoughts which 
arise in him. He is thus once more the vates sacer 
who obeys an overpowering impulse, but wrestles 
with a sense of impotency. This theory had never 
entirely perished, but had remained in obscurity. 
Inspiration and madness were in Greece, as they still 
are in Oriental nations, almost one, and the poet was 
not dishonoured when called a maniac. Modern 
Europe could not help seeing a connexion, but could 
not allude to it without conveying a sneer. Dryden 
says in apologetic, and, at the same time, satirical 

" Great wits to madness sure are near allied, 
And thin partitions do their bounds divide." 

So far as form was concerned, the difficulty could 
be evaded by a loose use of the word " paint." Pope 
winds up his story of the loves of Abelard and 
Heloise with 

"He best can paint them who shall feel them most." 

Strictly speaking, he can best paint who sees most 
clearly, not he who feels most strongly, and the 
logical result appears in Lord Tennyson's language 
when the poet is an utterer of thoughts, not a 
painter. Thus the void which the Romans filled up 
by the invention of genius has again appeared, and 


the more advanced rationalism of the present age Is 
as ill-satisfied with genius by way of explanation, as 
the Romans were with inspiration. The realistic 
theory offers an apparent solution suitable to the 
sentiments of the age. This theory puts on as 
many disguises as Proteus, but is eversnvhere based 
on rationalism. It is the expression of a desire to 
deny or conceal the scholastic saying, omnia exeunt 
in mysterium. Genius becomes intelligible when 
described as a love of truth. Every one knows that 
there is or may be such a thing as a love of truth, 
and that it is an excellent quality. Moreover 
Carlyle had the happy thought of introducing the 
word " veracity." Arguments which will not bear a 
close examination seem more plausible when un- 
common and pedantic words are put in the place of 
ordinary words. It was rather easier for Carlyle to 
persuade his readers that his military heroes were 
unusually veracious than that they were unusually 
desirous of the truth, and thus their unusual veracity 
served to connect them with other great men. But 
the realistic theory does not appear in its fully- 
developed shape in Carlyle's writings. He assumes 
that the true historian has a kind of intuition, and 
that this intuition is the result of an unusually 
intense love of truth. Dryasdust is supposed to be 

deficient in respect of this sentiment, and conse- 



quently cannot discern the truth. But intuitions 
cannot be assumed in argumentative criticism, and 
the doctrine that genius is veracity brings with it 
the doctrine that artists must offer evidence. Poetry 
is thus turned into history or science. The veracity 
of the poet must be proved by the veracity of his 
description, and this can only be established by an 
appeal to evidence. Mr. Gladstone has applied the 
theory in this way in his volumes on Homer. He 
compares the description of the Infernal Regions in 
the ^neid with the description in the Odyssey, and, 
affirming the superiority of the latter, cites historical 
evidence to prove that Homer was more truthful 
than VirgiL Every one, he says, of the period 
which Virgil describes, believed in the existence of 
the Infernal Region, and many of Virgil's contem- 
poraries believed ; but Virgil displays a manifest 
incredulity, and his description is for this reason 
inferior to Homer's, who conveys an impression of 
good faith. Mr. Gladstone speaks as if this showed 
a higher degree of moral truthfulness in Homer, but 
his own statement contradicts him. Virgil's fault 
was, as thus stated, an untimely honesty. He was 
sceptical, and he let it be seen that he was sceptical. 
If the atheist is necessarily dishonest, doubtless 
Virgil was dishonest, but, this denied, historical 
evidence can only prove that Homer's description 


has more historical value than Virgil's. It may be 
quite true, as a matter of fact, that the description 
in the Odyssey has a higher poetical value, but this 
can be proved only by the effect on the reader's 
feelings, and the historical evidence does not touch 
the question. This theory has, however, left litera- 
ture comparatively untroubled in this country and 
confined its attacks to pictorial art. It floats in the 
air, and dramatic authors seem to be more seriously 
vexed when accused of historical inaccuracy than 
when taxed with dulness ; but Shakespeare's plays 
remain an insuperable obstacle to a complete 
triumph. In France the conditions are reversed. 
The Acad^mie des Beaux Arts and a well-organised 
system of instruction have partly protected paint- 
ing, while Corneille, Racine, and Moli^re com- 
bined, have not been equal to Shakespeare. The 
quality of veracity has there been found very con- 
venient. Paul de Kock is far too trivial for a 
scientific age, and it is indeed quite evident that his 
thirst for the veracities was not great. But when 
the ghost of Paul de Kock consents to put on the 
masquerade of a philosopher, and comes forward as 
a student of psychology, every honour is paid him. 
The novelist who describes the details of an amorous 
intrigue can always find some friendly critic to 
commend the incomparable zeal for truth which has 


produced so admirable a result No one is deceived 
by this pretence, but appearances are saved, and the 
dignity of the author is intact when he can reply 
that truth is sacred. 

The most uncompromising advocates of veracity 
in painting are obliged to admit that a line must be 
drawn somewhere. None now deny, as an abstract 
proposition, though some critics imply a denial in 
their arguments, that what the French call trompe 
Vodl is illegitimate. The example of trompe Podl 
usually given is a fly so perfectly imitated that the 
spectator takes it for a real fly. An imitation of 
the texture of substances, chiefly manufactured sub- 
stances, such as satin, velvet, or canvas, when 
extraordinarily perfect is also so called. It is not 
meant that the spectator is actually deceived, but 
that he is almost led to think that such substances 
are stretched on the surface of the picture. Quasi- 
deceptions of this kind should be, if the realistic 
theory were quite sound, the perfection of art The 
painter who is representing a bunch of flowers or 
basket of fruit is bound by the obligation of veracity 
to represent a fly, if one happens to settle on the 
flowers or fruit, and is also bound to represent with 
the utmost fidelity in his power whatever he under- 
takes to represent But the artistic opinion has 
prevailed, and it is generally recognised that trompe 


Vcdl is unlawful. Pliny did not know this principle. 
He tells a foolish story of some grapes painted by 
Zeuxis and a curtain by Parrhasius which deceived 
the spectator, and thinks apparently that he is pay- 
ing these artists a compliment His story is un- 
questionably a myth, embodying an ignorant 
conception of art No painter ever succeeded in 
painting grapes or drapery with such perfection, nor 
is it in the least likely that any artist of repute 
would have desired to accomplish such a tour de 
force. If Pliny could have consulted the shade of 
Zeuxis, he would have been told that these were 
** the dregs of art." It is therefore worth while to 
ascertain the nature of trompe Vcdl and of the objec- 
tion to it A moment's reflection shows that it 
consists of a suggestion of depth or the third dimen- 
sion. The real fly stands out ; the painted fly is 
fiat A perfectly smooth surface is length and 
breadth; texture is produced by interstices of dif- 
ferent forms and magnitudes. The prohibition of 
trompe Voeil is the prohibition of a perfect imitation 
of the relations of light and dark where these suggest 
the third dimension. The rule does not apply 
where the magnitudes are great The modelling of 
the countenance or figure cannot become faulty by 
excess of perfection, nor can the planes of distance 
in a landscape be too faithfully rendered. The 


difference between the two cases is that in the latter 
the process of binocular vision interferes to prevent 
any ambiguity. Experience has taught the eye 
that where the third dimension is absent, two 
identical images are formed in the eyes, and where 
it is present, two different images, which unite to 
form one in consciousness. But when the visible 
object is very minute, as in the case of a fly, or a 
globule of water, or each inequality in a piece of 
canvas, the difference between the two images 
formed in the two eyes is so exceedingly small that 
it is practically worthless, unless the eye is brought 
very near. Consequently the eye, in such cases, find- 
ing the relations of light and dark which ordinarily 
would be produced by a projection or depression 
of the surface, and not finding the instinctive warning 
which binocular vision affords when the projection 
or depression is greater, infers that there is here a 
projection or depression. This is trompe VcsU. The 
fly or the drop of water seem to stand out, though 
no amount of skill can make a larger object stand 
out in a similar way. In the debased kind of art, 
which the realistic theory is forming, artists are try- 
ing by every trick of art to overcome this, and it is 
now thought, as Pliny would have thought, that a 
picture in which one figure seems to be detached 
from the rest is a triumph of art If the phrase 


trompe Vodl were strictiy accurate, the objection 
which is felt to it might be taken to confirm the 
realistic principle that veracity is the highest quality 
of art, but it is in fact an exaggeration and a meta- 
phor. A momentary mistake may occur in the 
instance of the fly or the drop of water, but in most 
cases no one is really taken in, nor do artists desire 
or hope to take any one in. There is really no 
question of deceitfulness. Such a feat as Pliny 
ascribes to Parrhasius has never been attempted 
and could not succeed. The objection to this kind 
of imitation is that it arrests the attention, and by 
fixing it on one point, destroys temporarily for con- 
sciousness the rest of the work of art Things 
which have three dimensions are realities, and as 
realities cannot be created, painting ceases to be 
creative or poetic art when a thing in three dimen- 
sions intrudes. Many unsatisfactory attempts have 
been made to define a reality^ because it has been 
treated as if it were a word with an absolute mean- 
ing, whereas it has a relative meaning only. That 
which is real in one relation is unreal in another. 
Land is real property in relation to gold, but gold 
is real property in relation to imaginary property. 
The epithet "real" is usually connected, in the 
explanations which are given of it, with the idea of 
permanence, and it is clear that there is a connexion. 


Land is more permanent than coin, and is therefore 
more real than coin. But though, in the contrast 
which we so frequently find between " the real " and 
" the imaginary," it is easy to select instances which 
satisfy the test of permanency, it is not difficult to 
find others to which this test cannot be applied. 
The image which is seen in a mirror is not a reality, 
as words are commonly used, and the explanation 
that it is not permanent applies. When the beholder 
changes his position the image changes, and dis- 
appears altc^ether if the position is greatly changed. 
But the image which is seen in a picture is also, as 
words are used, not a reality. The real Philip the 
Fourth of Spain died long ago : the Philip who meets 
the eyes of the spectator in our National Gallery is 
unreal. Yet he is more permanent than the real 
Philip in two ways. His forms and colours remain 
unchanged, whether beheld from the right hand or 
from the left, though a real person's appearance is 
different from different points of view, and he 
remains unaltered by time, though a real man is 
ever undergoing change. It is said that an aged 
monk once pointed to the figures in Titian's '' Last 
Supper " in the Escurial and said that he was some- 
times tempted to suppose that those were realities, 
and that he and his companions were unrealities, for 
that he had grown old and most of the friends of 


his youth were gone, while those figures remained 
unchanged. But he was only tempted to think 
this, and he knew that this permanency was 
not the true test Nor can there be any doubt 
what test he would have suggested if one had 
been required. ** Handle me and feel me," would 
have been his answer, " and you will find that I am 
a reality : handle and feel them, and you will find 
that they are not realities." The decisive test of 
reality in ordinary language is, therefore, tactual 
sensation, and the too -perfectly painted fly in the 
picture is a fault because it brings to mind a sensa- 
tion of this kind. The idea of permanency is, how- 
ever, indissolubly connected with tactual sensation. 
A creature, whether on land or in water or in the 
air, is supported by a resistant substance, and while 
consciousness lasts there are always tactual sensa- 
tions. Other sensations come and go. Light is 
only a generic name for colour, and colours have no 
existence in total darkness. But though tactual 
sensation and the idea of permanency are linked 
together by experience, and that which is tactually 
knowable is real in popular philosophy, an examina- 
tion of the logical history of the word real shows 
that the idea of permanency is not the essential 
idea. " Res " (a thing) is first the name of every 
possible object of thought One who thinks must 



think about some thing {de re aliqud). Things, then, i 

subdivide themselves into persons and things. This 
is the origin of the legal distinction between real and 
personal property. In this contrast a thing is inferior 
to a person. A slave is a thing, not a person. But 
things being thus separated from and contrasted 
with persons, again subdivide themselves (except 
in law) into things par excellence {res reales) and 
things ' relatively not -things {j-es non-reales). The 
latter class are unrealities. Although in this dis- 
tinction the question of permanency is important, 
inasmuch as a permanent thing is usually more 
valuable than a thing which passes away, this is 
only an incidental point The essential point is that 
things which cause tactual sensations cause pleasure 
and pain : things which do not come into contact 
with the nerves cannot cause pain or pleasure. 
There is no real exception to this, though there are 
apparent exceptions. The physical sensation of 
taste is excited by the contact of material particles 
with the nerves of the tongue ; and the pleasures 
which are attached to the senses of seeing and 
hearing are formed by an association. When light 
becomes so intense as to cause a distinct pain, the 
sensation is localised in the eye, and has become 
a tactual sensation. In the same way a sound, when 
so loud or harsh as to cause a physical feeling of 


discomfort, causes a tactual sensation in the ear. 
The sensations of temperature are tactual, because 
they are local and directly or physically pleasant or 
unpleasant. A reality is that which is relatively 
important It is a thing which is pre-eminently a 
thing, and as the things which can be felt by touch 
are the important things, these are the realities in 
popular philosophy. The metaphysician who holds 
that matter does not cause feeling, but that feeling 
creates a belief in matter, holds that feelings are 
more real than matter. But as matter is important 
or real only as a cause of tactual feeling, the canvas 
or panel of wood on which a picture is painted, with 
the coating of pigment, is a reality, as causing a 
tactual sensation — the figures represented in the 
picture are unrealities, as undiscernible by touch. 
A prolonged experience has, however, taught every 
one that, although many things are visible which 
cause no tactual sensation, a tactual sensation may 
arise if a voluntary movement takes place. Every 
one knows by experience that although he sees, and 
does not feel, the chair on the other side of the 
room, he may feel it if he gets up and walks up 
to it and puts his hand on it Hence has arisen 
the popular doctrine that there is one common sub- 
stance, called matter, in which both tactual and 
visible qualities inhere. This doctrine is formed by 


inference, though the inference is implicitly drawn, 
and is not explicitly stated, except by metaphysi- 
cians. A further doctrine is, however, popularly 
formed which philosophers refuse to recogfnise. As 
the invariable presence of tactual sensation compels 
the belief in an ever-present material world formed 
of resistant substance, so there arises a tendency to 
think that, besides the material substance which is 
known to touch, there is another substance in which 
visual qualities inhere. It is in this manner that 
ghosts and apparitions are conceived. Philosophers 
vainly argue that it is absurd to believe in ghosts, 
inasmuch as a truly spiritual substance cannot be 
visible and a material substance must be resistant : 
Ihese arguments are ineffectual because an implicit 
belief in another kind of substance, which is neither 
spiritual nor material, naturally forms itself. Appari- 
tions are, accordingly, unreal even to those who 
believe in them. Macbeth addresses Banquo's ghost 
as " unreal mockery." The thing had the appear- 
ance of Banquo, and Macbeth knew that something 
was there, but was persuaded that the substance of 
which it was composed was non-resistant, and it was 
to him unreal He drew the inference that it might 
not be permanent, and ordered it " Hence !" but the 
fundamental point was that it did not consist of the 
substance which is known to the sense of touch. 


The imagination, in Addison's sense of the word, 
operates by utilising this unphilosophical tendency 
to believe in a third substance which is neither 
strictly spiritual nor strictly material, and the alli- 
ance between the imagination and the faculty of 
sight, which is the theme of his essays on the 
pleasures of the imagination, is formed in this 
manner. Hence arises the* necessity of excluding 
trompe Vceil from pictures. The knowledge that 
there is no such substance as imagination postulates 
is always ready to assert itself, and any suggestion 
of the third dimension brings it to mind. The end 
of the painter is to create a phantom world ; but a 
phantom which can be touched is not a phantom. 
We have here the explanation of that precept of 
Sir Joshua Reynolds which aroused the anger of 
Mr. Ruskin, — that the forms of vegetation should 
be generalised. When the image which the painter 
presents corresponds to the pre-existing image in 
the mind of the spectator, the attention is not 
arrested and the phantom-substance is not destroyed. 
But mankind (with the exception, perhaps, of a few 
botanists) come to the picture with general images 
in their minds of vegetable forms, and the play of 
the imagination would be interrupted if correspond- 
ing forms were not found in the picture. For a like 
reason the forms of animals cannot be generalised. 


Distinct and definite images pre-exist of human 
beings, cows, horses, sheep, etc ; and a generalised 
animal would catch the eye as certainly as a 
minutely -particularised plant does. This is the 
radical difference between Sir Joshua Reynolds' and 
Mr. Ruskin's theory. In the opinion of the former 
landscape painting is an art which, like poetry, 
affords a pleasure of the imagination, and all con- 
siderations should be subordinated to this end ; in the 
opinion of the latter it is an art of which the end 
is to instruct the spectator in botany and geology, 
though, as it is, I presume, almost superfluous to 
add, Mr. Ruskin does not keep to his theory. 

Distance is said to lend enchantment It does 
this by making objects less distinct Most terms 
which are used in mental philosophy are metaphors 
taken from the senses. To distinguish is ety- 
mologically to know by touch, and a distinct object 
is one which suggests the thought of tactual know- 
ledge. In pictures art lends this enchantment, 
which distance lends to natural objects, in a more 
perfect degree by the contradiction to experience 
which it offers. The relations of light and dark, 
which projections and depressions cause, are found 
in pictures, but there comes with them a perfect 
conviction that they are not caused as they are 
in natural objects. When a natural scene is sur- 

^■■WWP^""Wi»*i^ — . _—- ._^_ , » ^"V^^p 


veyed, the mind of the spectator fluctuates between 
two opposite modes of thought, which may be called 
observation and contemplation. The former is the 
mode which the sense of touch has formed, the 
latter is derived from the sense of sight Mr. 
Herbert Spencer has described the latter mode in 
the following terms : — " A like explanation may be 
given of emotions which leave the subject of them 
comparatively passive, as, for instance, that pro- 
duced by scenery. By compounding groups of 
sensations and ideas there are at length formed 
those vast aggregations which a grand landscape 
excites and suggests. An infant taken into the 
midst of mountains is totally unaffected, but is 
delighted with the small group of attributes and 
relations presented in a toy. Children can appreciate 
and be pleased with the more complicated relations 
of household objects and localities — of the garden, 
the field, and the street But it is only in youth 
and mature age, when individual things and small 
assemblages of them have become familiar and 
automatically cognisable, that those immense assem- 
blages which landscapes present can be adequately 
grasped, and the highly integrated states of con- 
sciousness produced by them experienced. Then, 
however, the various minor groups of states that 
have been in earlier days severally produced by 


trees and flowers, by fields and moors and rocky 
wastes, by streams, by cascades, by ravines and 
precipices, by blue skies and clouds and storms, 
are aroused together. Along with the immediate 
sensations there are partially excited the myriads 
of sensations that have been in times past received 
from objects such as those presented ; further, there 
are partially excited the multitudinous incidental 
feelings that were experienced on these many past 
occasions, and there are also excited certain deeper 
but now vague combinations of states which were 
organised in the race during barbarous times, when 
its pleasurable activities were chiefly among the 
woods and waters. And out of all these excita- 
tions, some of them actual, but most of them 
nascent, is composed the emotion which a fine 
landscape produces in us." {Principles of Psycho- 
logy y vol. L, p. 485, ed. 1870.) 

This admirable description of the feeling which 
a fine landscape produces contains the true theory 
of painting. The subject, it is said, is comparatively 
passive, and this state is found when ''individual 
things and small assemblages of them have become 
automatically cognisable." Hence, the foreground 
foliage of a landscape must, in a picture, be the 
counterpart of the image which pre-exists in the 
spectator's mind. Otherwise, he is led to observe 


the forms (they being no longer automatically 
cogfnisable), and thus mentally comparing them with 
plants which he has seen, he ceases to be passive. 
It may be observed here that the word {esthetic 
may be used to designate complicated groups of 
feeling, such as are described in this passage, with- 
out any philosophical inaccuracy. It is purely a 
verbal question whether it is or not proper in this 
sense, and the practice of writers who cannot be 
suspected of an irrational preference for learned 
words seems to show that it or some similar term 
is required. The assumption made by Baumgarten, 
and those who believe in the science of aesthetic, is 
quite another thing, and although undoubtedly the 
word was first introduced by way of supporting 
the fictitious science, it does not follow that it is 
illegitimate, if necessary, in a different sense. The 
peculiarity of the state of mind which Mr. H. 
Spencer describes is that it is made up of a mix- 
ture of different sensations and ideas. But such 
combinations can only exist where all are feebly 
felt ; any one sensation or idea vividly present 
destroys for the moment all others. This is known 
to be true even of physical pain. A sensation which 
is extremely acute, when no other sensation rivals it, 
vanishes when one more acute comes into competi- 
tion with it The same law holds good of mental 



activity. A concentration of the attention in one 
direction implies a temporary elimination of all 
other thought If, therefore, we please to adopt 
the term (Esthetic emotion^ it is clearly superfluous 
to assume that there must be a something called 
Beauty which creates this emotion. The simpler 
explanation is that an emotion which, in some cases, 
is so strongly felt that it monopolises the attention, 
is, in others, so faintly felt as to permit an inter- 
mixture of other emotions which arise as the im- 
agination plays. But the surest way to prevent an 
emotion from obtaining an exclusive supremacy is 
to keep distinctly present to the mind of the 
spectator or auditor the fact that the artist has 
forged an **airy nothing," or called up an "unreal 
phantom." So long as this conviction is present, 
whether the work of art is a poem, a picture, or a 
statue, it cannot arouse a feeling of pity, anger, 
hate, or approbation so intense as to paralyse the 
imagination and destroy the aesthetic {i.e, mixed) 
emotion. The painter accomplishes this by not 
allowing the spectator to forget that the things 
which he creates are phantoms. It is impossible to 
be seriously angry with a phantom or to pity it 
sincerely. No one really pities the ghost who is 
supposed to escape for a time from torment, and 
then to return to it. The idea of pain is united by 


experience with flesh, and it is absolutely impossible 
to think that the ghost, who is fleshless, can feel 
pain. The theologians who insist on the doctrine 
of the resurrection of the body are right in con- 
nexion with their view. The unsubstantial phantom 
evoked by the painter cannot excite any sympathy 
except an aesthetic sympathy. Thus the tender- 
hearted philanthropist, who would shrink with horror 
from the thought of an innocent young man tied to 
a tree and pierced all over with arrows, can gaze 
with perfect equanimity on the picture of St. Sebas- 
tian. The idea of pain cannot connect itself with a 
fleshless image or a thing of two dimensions, and 
taste finds an instinctive gratification in the forms 
and colours, which the corresponding reality could 
not provide, though the same forms and colours 
might be present in it Art has not added any- 
thing to the reality — at any rate, has not necessarily 
added anything. It has abstracted something, to 
wit, solidity, and with it the idea of pain. If, there- 
fore, Mr. H. Spencer has well analysed the pleasure 
of imagination which a fine landscape affords, and 
Sir Joshua Reynolds rightly held that the art of 
painting, like poetry, is addressed to the imagina- 
tion, the realistic theory of the importance of 
historical accuracy is in direct opposition to the 
true theory of painting. The end sought by the 


realistic artist is, by every means in his power, to 
divert the attention from the present unreality to 
the absent reality. In his historical subjects he 
laboriously investigates the details which interest 
the antiquarian : paints these with an obtrusive 
exactness, and, lest they should even then fail to 
catch the eye, advertises the fact that a scrupulous 
fidelity has been observed. This is called veracious 
art It is, in fact, the only unveracious art An 
ostentatious historical accuracy in details and acces- 
sories is an implied assertion that the representation, 
as a whole, has a historical value, whereas in most 
historical subjects the figures which are introduced 
are purely imaginary. It is a ludicrous inversion of 
legitimate interest to make the chief figure, or all 
the figures, in pictures of a historical kind, mere 
p^s on which to hang antiquarian illustrations. 
The climax of absurdity is reached when a picture 
of the Saviour is commended as a great work of art 
on the score that the carpenter's tools are correctly 

Artistic representation is effected in two ways : 
I. By signs ; 2. By a partial presentation of attri- 
butes. All literary representation is effected by 
signs. Words are signs of thoughts, and visible 
signs are presented when the poem is read ; audible, 
when it is recited. But painters and sculptors 


present a part of the attributes of the things which 
they represent, and their representations are not 
presentations, because they do not present all the 
attributes. The painter represents man by pre- 
senting the colours without the three dimensions ; 
the sculptor by presenting the three dimensions 
without the natural colour. The fundamental dis- 
tinction between the arts of the two latter and the 
art of the poet arises from this, and not from the 
difference between successive and simultaneous 
presentation into which Lessing vainly attempts to 
resolve it. The importance of this distinction is 
due to the law of psychology that newly -formed 
impressions are more vivid and have a greater 
effect on feeling than those which are preserved in 
memory and are half-effaced by time. When a 
wrong is experienced, or an act of injustice witnessed, 
the feeling of indignation which is at first acute 
becomes fainter as time passes, though all the 
circumstances may be perfectly remembered, and 
the nature of the wrong or injustice as clearly under- 
stood as it was in the first instance. This applies 
to everything, and as the painter presents colours 
which the poet cannot present, colour quality has a 
degree of value in a picture which it cannot have 
in a poem. The science of beauty, accordingly, 
attempting to frame laws which can be applied to 


poetry and painting, is fighting against nature and the 
constitution of the mind. It is therefore absolutely 
impossible for those who believe in this science to 
cling to their own doctrine. They start with the 
assumption that in all objects which are called 
beautiful there must be one common beauty, an 
assumption which belongs to an obsolete kind of 
theory, and base their science on this. When they 
proceed to apply this fiction, they are obliged to 
affirm that there are two kinds of beauty — ^a higher 
and a lower — and they contend that if the arts of 
sense were duly purified and refined, the lower or 
sensuous beauty would cease to exercise an attraction. 
But this cannot be, because a present quality which 
forms a new impression has relatively a greater 
influence than an absent quality which is imagined. 
Since in a picture forms and colours are present 
without any other attributes of the things represented, 
these are in a picture more important. No theory 
can get over this. No conviction, for instance, that 
it is better to be wise and virtuous than to be 
comely can prevent comeliness of appearance from 
being the most important attribute in pictures of 
human beings. In poetry, where this and all attri- 
butes are represented by words or signs, it falls into 
the background, and the character, or moral and in- 
tellectual characteristics are the more important In 


the drama, which is composed of the two modes 
of representation, signs, and presentations, a rule is 
derived from this, which Horace stated, but did not 
explain rightly. He said that Medea must not 
murder her infants on the stage, and he put this as 
if it were an exception to the principle which he had 
previously laid down that sights {qu<B sunt oculis 
subjecta fidelibus) have a greater effect on feeling 
than sounds {demissa per aurem). It is an example 
of, not an exception to, his rule. He says that if 
the spectacle is presented to him he is disgusted 
because he is incredulous, incredulus odi. This is 
absurd. The disgust would manifestly be greater if 
he were credulous, and took the make-believe murder 
for a real murder. The true reason why a mother 
should not murder her infants on the stage is that a 
presentation produces a vivid impression in spite of 
an intellectual conviction of the fictitious nature of 
the act. The feeling of horror is too strong for the 
occasion. But his principle is not correctly worded 
and is true only if taken in connexion with the 
context The sounds which produce less effect 
{segnius irritant animos) are those which are signs 
of thoughts and conceptions ; those which are ex- 
pressions of feeling produce an effect as great as, 
or perhaps greater than, sights. Now, when realism 
is triumphant, actors occasionally try experiments 


which are justified by the theory but fail in practice. 
Not many years ago an actress who played the part 
of the Traviata, influenced by the theory that art 
should be veracious, introduced a cough as a 
symptom of illness. This demissum per aurem was 
found intolerable, though the visible signs of illness 
are tolerated on the stage. So too, if when Medea 
is supposed to be murdering her infants behind the 
scenes, their shrieks and lamentations were heard, 
this would probably be more intolerable than the 
spectacle. Perhaps this experiment has been tried. 
It is at any rate worthy of the predominant theory. 
Horace in this passage was dragging in the realistic 
principle, and it is a very good test of its value, for 
the logical result is that which he here implies, that 
the play of Medea would be more agreeable if the 
spectator were persuaded that a murder is committed. 
But Aristotle in the Poetic Art, though he did not 
give the whole reason, gave at least a part of it, and 
in doing so protested by anticipation against realism. 
The drama was to most of the Greeks what miracle 
plays have been in more recent European history. 
It was rather a reproduction of history than a 
" play " which diverted the fancy. But it is dis- 
cussed by Aristotle as pure art, ix, poetic or creative 
art. It shows, he said, a poverty of resource and is 
inartistic to complete the representation by showing 


things to the eyes (St^ t^? ^-^e©?). This practice 
which he condemns is the favourite device of realism. 
The actor's part is shorn of its just proportions by 
costly and elaborate studies of dress and decoration, 
and the scene-painter either relieves him of his task 
or enters into successful competition with him. For- 
tunately for great actors, Shakespeare held with 
Aristotle that acting is creative art, and they escape 
from realistic fetters when they fly to his sympathetic 
genius. He did not think that the end of acting is 
to teach history and geography, and though the 
unveracity of an author who assigned a seashore to 
Bohemia is disgraceful in the accepted theory, the 
sin is forgotten when Shakespeare is the criminal. 
When acting is regarded as creative art, the theatrical 
adjuncts serve to remind the spectator that the 
veracities have been dismissed for a time, and that 
all which he witnesses is an organised fiction ; that 
the treacherous host who murders his guest in 
Macbeth^ and the jealous husband who murders his 
wife in Othello^ are but unreal phantoms which will 
lose their existence when he turns his eyes away. 
A theatrical style of elocution, differing from that 
of ordinary life, serves the same purpose. These 
adjuncts are in the drama what the absence of the 
third dimension is in the art of painting. They keep 
the imagination of the spectator in the realm of 


unrealities which alone belongs to it. An act of 
creation is strictly inconceivable, and is a miracle 
for this reason. But the idea of creation is faintly 
suggested when an effect is produced which has 
apparently no cause. It is thus that painting is 
creative art. It produces visible effects which in 
every other known case are produced by solid 
substances, and as only two dimensions are present 
in the picture, the artist seems to be a creator. 
Imitation of marble and wood is condemned by 
taste in architectural decoration, and the false ex- 
planation is commonly given that imitation of this 
kind is displeasing because it is a kind of deceit. 
Any one who chooses to consult his common sense 
will see that this is not the true explanation. The 
moral sense is not in the least shocked by such 
imitations, nor does any one feel that the decorator 
who employs them is dishonest or a liar. But they 
do not belong to Fine Art, because there is not in 
this instance that elimination of the third dimension 
which gives painting its creative quality, and they 
are a purposeless concealment of the natural sub- 
stance. As the painted fly in the picture is con- 
demned because it suggests the third dimension too 
perfectly, so these are condemned because they give 
no suggestion of it. In like manner, the actor is a 
creator, because there are found in him all the signs 


of love, of hate, of anger, and other passions, while 
it is manifest that there is no cause for these 
emotions. In both arts there is a contradiction. 
Results are found which must have a cause ; yet the 
only known causes are not there. Fine Art is thus 
distinguished from mechanical art. The condition 
of the former is that the artist must fail in what he 
attempts, and it is for this reason creative. The 
painter does his utmost to persuade the spectator, 
that he presents solid objects, but must not succeed 
in persuading him. The actor does his utmost to 
convince his auditors that he is influenced by passion, 
but the stage must be so arranged as to make his 
failure certain. On these conditions alone can the 
aesthetic, or mixed, emotion arise. 

There is a distinction which is practically im- 
portant in the art of painting between painting from 
nature and from imagination or memory. This is, 
however, a distinction of degree rather than of kind. 
Every artist in every instance paints from imagination, 
for at each moment when a touch or a line is added 
the eyes must be fixed on the canvas or paper, and 
if no image were mentally present when the eyes 
are turned away from the natural object, painting 
would be impossible. The difference is that in the 
one case the impression is constantly renewed by 
a fresh inspection, in the other a store of impressions. 


half-obliterated by time, alone are present. But 
different images are found in different persons, in 
accordance with differences of interest or ways of 
looking at things, and the practice of drawing tends 
to produce a difference between artists and others, 
with respect to form. Experience, summed up in 
the precepts of the drawing-school, teaches that the 
more general relations of lines to each other must be 
secured before any attention is paid to details, and 
that error will find a way in if this precaution is 
neglected. There is formed in this manner an 
habitual and instinctive tendency to observe the 
more general forms, and in the mental image which 
results the artistic whole is in logical terms more 
extensive and less comprehensive than the non- 
artistic whole. There results from this the peculiarity 
which is known as breadth of style. As in all 
similar cases a taste or instinctive preference for a 
broad style arises ultimately. This taste is unin- 
telligible to non-artistic critics, and is set down to 
academic prejudice. The " conscientious " artist who 
entirely repudiates this prejudice or convention is 
highly esteemed by the non-artistic critic. But 
though breadth of style is a natural result of artistic 
practice, it is a necessary characteristic also of 
imaginative or poetic art The logical law that 
comprehension and extension exist in inverse ratios 


IS as true of images as of conceptions. Mr. H. 
Spencer shows that the pleasure of .imagination 
which scenery produces requires an automatic re- 
cognition of minor groups ; that is, these minor 
groups do not occupy the attention. The image 
formed in the spectator's mind is, like the artistic 
mental image of a particular object, of a general 
kind. All which the artist presents attracts attention, 
and he must eliminate the minutiae which oppose the 
extension of the imagined whole ; in other words, 
his imagination does for the spectator of a picture 
what the spectator's imagination does for itself when 
a natural scene is present Art lends to the arti- 
ficial scene the enchantment which distance lends to 
the natural scene. But as " use doth breed a habit 
in a man," and those who have not cultivated a taste 
for natural scenery do not readily fall into the 
passive state of contemplation which is required for 
the enjoyment of it, but busy themselves with the 
observation of details and minutiae, so the positive 
passion for works of art demands a habit of passive 
passion which use alone breeds. The natural or 
uncultivated tendency is to observe rather than to 
contemplate, to inquire into rather than acquiesce in 
a novelty. The difference between lovers of art 
and their antagonists resolves itself into the question 
whether pictures are made to be looked at or to be 

270 NATURE OF THE FINE ARTS, [chap. vi. 

criticised. Goldsmith, who held that the fashionable 
taste for painting was ridiculous, was pleased to see 
Sir Joshua Reynolds shift his trumpet and take snuff, 
when they talked of Raphaels, Coreggios, and stuff. 
He interpreted this gesture as an endorsal of his 
own opinion. But he was mistaken. Sir Joshua 
did not identify the art of Coreggio with "stuff." 
The stuff, in his opinion, was the eloquence of the 
voluble critic who thought that pictures were painted 
to be talked about rather than to be looked at. 



If Burke's theory that there is a pleasure in the 
perception of resemblance, or the realistic principle 
that completeness of representation is the test of 
excellence, were sound, a coloured figure of wax- 
work should be a more perfect work of art than 
either a picture or a statue. The resemblance is 
greater, and the representation more perfect, in the 
waxwork imitation, which unites natural colour with 
natural form, than in pictures or statues, where 
either the third dimension or the natural colours are 
omitted. None of the " speculatists " have dared to 
face this question, and if they have touched it, have 
avoided the objection by some metaphor, as, for 
instance, by saying that sculpture ** disdains " colour. 
The realistic theory has, however, endeavoured to 
gain its ends indirectly, and though its friends have 
never explained why modem sculptors do not colour 
their statues, they have declared that the great 


sculptors of ancient Greece did this ; and a French 
author has beguiled some scholars and some artists 
into a belief that Phidias set up at Olympia a 
monstrous painted doll, like a figure taken from 
Madame Tussaud's gallery greatly magnified, and 
that all Greece gazed on this figure with enthusiastic 
admiration. Though Lessing's theory that the 
Greeks had fully formed the notion of " art for art's 
sake," and that their statues were to them what the 
statues in the Vatican are to the modem tourist, is 
assuredly false, it would be as certainly false to 
contend that the idea of art did not exist for the 
artists themselves and some of the Greeks. Were it 
possible to prove that the statues of Greece were 
coloured in imitation of nature in the classical 
period, the authority of Greece could not be dis- 
regarded, and the theory that the essential quality 
of mimetic Fine Art is a contradiction of experience, 
effected by an omission of attributes, would be 
refuted. A historical digression is, therefore, neces- 
sary in order to show that the bubble which 
Quatremfere de Quincy blew, and which still floats, 
collapses as soon as it is grasped. One point, how- 
ever, must be taken apart from the historical ques- 
tion, lest a misconception should cause a prejudice. 
Gibson, in the latter part of his life, coloured his 
statues in imitation of nature, and it may naturally 


be supposed that it is possible to cite his authority 
in behalf of this practice. There is conclusive 
evidence that Gibson was not guided by his own 
taste, but adopted this practice in deference to the 
authority of Greece, misled by the confident asser- 
tions of some of his friends that the Greek statues 
were painted. It is true that after he had begun to 
colour his own works he vehemently insisted that 
his taste was satisfied, and that the colour pleased 
him ; but he coupled this with an incessant reitera- 
tion of the cry that the Greeks could not have erred. 
The conclusive proof that he at first set his own 
instincts at defiance in submission to a supposed 
obligation is found in the Autobiography edited by 
Lady Eastlake. He seriously thought that he had 
seen a supernatural vision and received a divine 
mandate. *' Gibson was fully persuaded that the 
little God appeared bodily to him on this occasion, 
and has left a description of the interview, which 
draws too much upon the marvellous for insertion 
here. The gfist of their conversation, however, was 
that the God of Love directed the sculptor to colour 
his statue." {Life of fohn Gibson, p. 76^ This 
clearly shows how great the mental struggle was. 
Gibson was like the patriotic assassin who cannot 
overcome the instinctive pleadings of his conscience 

till fancy forges a supernatural messenger. 



Quatremfere de Quincy was the inventor of the 
doctrine that the Greek statues were painted, and 
though I cannot speak confidently, I do not think 
that any Grerman scholar has fallen into the trap 
which he prepared. But Frenchmen, Englishmen, 
and Italians have ; and, as often happens, the disciples 
have gone beyond their master. He was content to 
affirm that the fact was certain, but admitted that it 
might show a want of taste. His followers unite in 
declaring that this addition of colour was a con- 
summate excellence. Monsieur Eugfene Vdron writes : 
'^ D'ailleurs la statuaire du moyen ^e, comme celle 
de rinde, de TEgypte, et de la Grtee, est toujours 
peinte ; ce qui dquivaut ^ dire que les civilisations 
qui ont r^Uement eu des dcoles de statuaire ont 
pense que cet art ne pouvait se passer de la pein- 
ture." {Esthitique : Sculpture^ p. 245.) Sir G. J. 
Wilkinson, who has devoted a large part of a 
chapter to this question in his volume on Colour, 
speaks in an equally confident tone. Only one 
point in the argument of the latter need be noticed, 
for there is no substantial addition to the French 
argument But he adds some instances in which 
there is evidence that basso or alto rilievo was 
coloured, begging the question that this proves the 
colouring of statues. The questions are distinct 
Sculptured reliefs are a part of architectural decora- 


tion, and colour is a part of architectural decoration. 
The question is not whether colour of a decorative 
kind was introduced in architecture, but whether 
imitative colour was added to the statue proper for 
the purpose of augmenting the resemblance, or com- 
pleting the representation. The latter is the con- 
tention of Quatremfere de Quincy, which Sir G. 
Wilkinson sought to confirm. " J'entends ici par 
peindre une statue, employer les couleurs a donner 
aux differentes parties du visage et du corps le ton 
qu'elles ont dans la nature. L'emploi habituel de 
cette pratique me semble trfes positivement prouvd 
par un passage de Platon." {Le Jupiter Olympietiy 
ou Part de la sculpture antique considM sous un 
nouveau point de vue^ p. 29.) The passage in 
Plato to which reference is here made is the strong- 
hold of all who adopt this opinion, and they rely for 
the rest of their case on later authors, such as Pliny. 
Sir G. Wilkinson has employed the testimony of 
Pliny in a way so original and felicitous as to 
deserve commemoration. Pliny said : " Caepimus et 
lapidem pingere. Hoc Claudii principatu inventum." 
" We have begun to paint even marble. This was 
invented when Claudius was emperor." Sir G. 
Wilkinson quotes the first half of this, " Caepimus et 
lapidem pingere," and observes that this is satis- 
factory evidence that the Greeks always painted 


their statues, inasmuch as the Romans would not 
have adopted this practice if they had not found 
that it was usual in Greece. 

The misinterpretation of Plato's words arises 
from a misunderstanding of a Greek word which 
Plato uses. I am conscious that it must seem 
audacious to challenge an interpretation which the 
whole world of scholars has accepted, but will, never- 
theless venture to argue that the word andricelum 
(av8picK€\ov) was never used by Plato, or any other 
Greek author, in the sense which has been found for 
it, viz. a flesh-coloured pigment Every passage 
in which it occurs obtains a better meaning when it 
is taken to mean an image, coloured as Quatrem^re 
de Quincy thought the avipiAvre^ or statues were 
coloured, and every probability is satisfied when it 
is so translated. The presumptions must be first 
stated. As regards the etymological presumption I 
cannot imagine a dispute possible, or that it would 
be denied that the word andricelum must mean 
rather a thing which is like a man than a thing 
which is in colour like a man's flesh. It is at any 
rate certain that it bore the former meaning in later 
Greek. The following lines are part of an epigram 
attributed to Theaetetus : — 

yjiov^T^v fi€ XiOov 7raAivav^€os Ik Trepiityjnjs 
XaoTVTTos Tfirj^as Trerporofwis aKun 


Mi^Sos iirovT07r6p€V(r€v ottcos dv8p€iK€\a rev^y 
TTJs KttT *A^9yvaia)v <rvfil3o\a Kafifwvirjs* 

It is beyond all question that andricelum means in 
these lines a statue {i,e. a thing which resembles a 
man). The point of the whole epigram is that a 
block of marble cut in Asia Minor and transferred 
to Greece would, when made into a statue, represent, 
according to the point of view, either Victory or 
Nemesis. Nevertheless it is said that this same word 
in classical authors means a flesh-coloured pigment. 
Not only are the etymological presumptions set at 
defiance when it is so interpreted, but a presumption 
of an artistic kind is violated which scholars havQ 
not observed. Although it is true that if etymology 
is disregarded the Greeks might have known some 
pigment, or combination of pigments, by the name 
of andricelum^ ** flesh-colour," just as there are now 
some colours called salmon-colour, olive-colour, or 
rose-colour, this cannot have been true in the sense 
which is required for the interpretation of these 
passages. The assumption which is made is not 
simply that a certain tint was known as flesh-colour 
— ^there would be no improbability in this — but that 
this preparation was so-called because it was used 
by artists to imitate flesh. Now flesh cannot be 
imitated by a prepared homogeneous mixture. 
When cosmetics are applied to the natural counte- 


nance, every care is taken to preserve, so far as is 
possible, that infinite variety of tones which is found 
wherever the colours have been laid on by the sweet 
and cunning hand of nature. A little white is 
added in one place, a little red in another, but an 
opaque coating is not applied, and if this precaution 
is neglected, a hideous effect is produced as if a skin 
had been stretched on the face. The artist must 
imitate nature, and can only do this by a skilful 
intermixture of a thousand different nuances. If 
andricelum was employed by Greek artists in the 
manner which is supposed, they must have been 
satisfied with the vilest kind of signboard art This 
interpretation of the word is derived from the 
Platonic Glossary of Timaeus. Ruhnken confirmed 
it, and it has since passed unchallenged. The 
probabilities of the case must be weighed against 
this authority, and the question decided by an 
examination of the passages in which it is found. 

The following is in the CEconomicus of Xenophon 
(cap. X.) : — fj el aoi fiCKrtp oKei^ofievo^ teal to^ 
6<f>0aKfiov^ inra\ec(f>ofievo^ dvSpecKeXqi iircSectcvvotfil re 
ifiavTov Koi avvelrjv i^airar&v ae teal irapi'^cDv opav 
Kol airrea'OaL fiCkrov avrl rod ifiavTov j^wto? ; eyoi 
fUvy i<f>rj iKelvTf, ovr &v fiCkrov airroCfirjv ijScov fj 
cov, ovT &v avhpeiKiKov j(p&/jba opanjv rjSvov fj to aov, 
ovT &v T0V9 6(f>0a\fioi^ inra\rj\cfifiivov^ rjStov 6p<ifjv 


T0U9 0-0U9 ^ v^Lalvovra<;, A husband is in this 
passage explaining to his wife that she ought not to 
employ cosmetics^ and he asks her whether she 
would like him the better if his natural complexion 
were disguised with a coating of paint. Com- 
mentators take the word andricelum to mean flesh- 
coloured paint But when it is so construed the 
passage is downright nonsense. Becker points this 
out in the notes to his Charicles (vol. ii., p. 235). 
He observes with perfect justice that when the eyes 
are stained, a dark colouring matter is added, and that 
it is wholly impossible that they can ever have been 
coated with flesh-coloured pigment Nevertheless, 
he was so prepossessed with the notion that andri- 
celum must be some kind of paint, as to miss the 
requisite emendation. He suggests a sweeping 
emendation of a purely conjectural kind which, after 
all, does not greatly improve the sense. But the 
rules of critical emendation allow us to insert the 
word eXiceXjov after the word avSpecKiKtp in the first 
sentence. When this emendation is made, the 
whole paragraph may be translated as follows : — 
** * Or if I, rouged and with my eyes stained, were to 
exhibit myself to you like a barber's block, and 
were to consort with you, deceiving you and offering 
to your sight and touch rouge instead of my own 
skin ? ' * I,* she answered, ' should not so willingly 


embrace rouge as you, or gaze with such pleasure 
on the colour of a barber's block as on your colour, 
or on your eyes stained as on your eyes with the 
natural appearance of health.'" This emendation 
gives a satisfactory meaning, though Becker's does 
not, and is of a kind which is justifiable, for it is 
well known that when two words almost identical 
occur together, one of them is sometimes dropped in 
transcription. I have translated the word andri- 
celum, " a barber's block," because there is reason to 
suppose that the andricela were, like barber^s blocks, 
usually made of coloured wax. The Greeks were 
familiar with the use of wax in conjunction with 
colour. It is said that the evidence which there is 
of this induced Sir Joshua Resmoldi to try the 
disastrous experiment of compounding his colours 
with wax. It may be that there is proof that they 
used wax in painting. Archaeologists seem to agree 
in thioking that it is certain ; but some of the pass- 
ages in which wax is named may refer to the 
manufacture of wax images or andricela. There is 
a point with regard to this which has not been 
observed. Theophrastus, in a catalogue which he 
gives of different pigments with the localities in 
which they are found, says of miltus or red, fitkrov 
a iravrohairiiv &are eh rh avSpelxeXa j^prjcOac roi>^ 
ypa(f>€k (irepl XlOwvy sect 51). "Red is found in 


all shapes {i^, this particular red called miltus), so 
that painters use it for their andricela." Now why, 
if an andricelum is a flesh-coloured pigment, should 
red alone be named ? Red and white do not 
produce flesh-colour. A large quantity of yellow 
must be added to produce anything like the requisite 
tone. But in the sentence which precedes the 
words quoted yellow had just been named, and 
nothing said about the use of this for andricela. 
There is great uncertainty about the meaning of the 
Greek names for the different pigments, but appar- 
ently cinnabar was the usual name for vermilion, 
miltus both for red lead and red oxide of iron. 
Even vermilion mixed with white does not make 
flesh -colour, but it comes rather nearer than red 
lead and white. But the words of Theophrastus, 
though incomprehensible if the andricela are taken 
to be flesh-colours, are what might be expected if 
they were wax figures or busts. When a trans- 
lucent substance, such as unclarified wax, of a 
yellowish colour, is compounded with a small 
quantity of red, the result is a fair imitation of the 
colour of flesh. The question then is why the 
Greeks made these andricela, and why the word is 
so uncommon. There is not much difficulty in 
answering this. The andricela were the same as 
the " pictae imagines " or ** expressi cer4 vultus " of 


the Romans : they were portraits ; and thus, though 
the word seldom found its way into literature, it was 
a familiar and household term. It is evident that 
Plato, Xenophon, and Theophrastus knew well what 
it meant, and took for granted that their readers 
would be equally well-informed ; but it is more likely 
that every one would know the common name for a 
portrait than that all should know a technical term 
employed by artists for a certain mixture of colour. 
Two points must be remembered in estimating the 
probability of this explanation. i. There is no 
artistic criticism in Greek literature, and there were 
in Greece no disputes about copyright in engraving, 
and there was no art of photographing. If every 
mention of portraits which occurs in these con- 
nexions were expunged from modem literature, an 
enormous mass of writings might be explored with- 
out the discovery of anything about portrait-painting. 
2. The waxen imagines of the Romans were more 
important to them than portraits were to the Greeks, 
because family history was more important, and 
these busts were the family pedigree. But as the 
use of wax was certainly known to the Greeks, it 
would be strange if it had not occurred to them to 
use it as the Romans used it ; and there is a passage 
in Pliny which, if his testimony may be trusted, 
proves that Greece had forestalled Italy in this. 


He says : ** Hominis autem imaginem gypso e facie 
ipsS, primus omnium expressit, cerdque in eam 
formam gypsi infusd, emendare instituit Lysistratus 
Sicyonius, frater Lysippi de quo diximus. Hie et 
similitudinem reddere instituit : ante eum quam pul- 
cherrimas facere studebant." {Pliny xxxv. cap. 44.) 
Pliny does not literally say that the first portraits 
were made in this way, but he connects the use of 
wax with this invention. The passage seems to me 
to mean : ** Lysistratus of Sicyon, brother of the 
Lysippus previously mentioned, was the first who 
took a cast of the face, and he introduced the practice 
of removing defects by means of melted wax poured 
into the plaster mould. He, too, was the first who 
thought of taking likenesses ; before his time the 
object was simply to make beautiful faces." The 
addition of colour was an obvious improvement — 
was, indeed, plainly necessary, for nothing could be 
more ghastly than a face of wax uncoloured, and thus 
would arise the need for some word which* distin- 
guished these imagines from the avSpiAvre^ and 
ar/d\fiaTa — the statues of gods, demi-gods, and men. 
It appears that for some reason miltus was required 
by the Athenians in large quantities, for they inserted 
a clause in a treaty with the inhabitants of the island 
Ceos which gave them a monopoly of it (vide Newton's 
Essays on Art and ArchcBologyy p. 117). The miltus 


named in this treaty is taken by Professor Newton 
to be vermilion. He is probably right in this. It 
is not likely that such a stipulation would be made 
about the commoner colour red lead, which the 
Athenians could prepare for themselves, and though 
miltus is usually translated red lead, vermilion was 
probably always used for the andricela. It may 
have been required for other purposes as well, but 
was chiefly needed for these portraits. It is note- 
worthy that the chief addition to the Fine Arts which 
the Romans made in literature as well as in painting 
was portrait painting. The satire of Greece, such as 
there is in the plays of Aristophanes, was personal. 
Horace, Juvenal, and Persius painted pictures of 
society, and these descriptions were the chief contri- 
bution of Rome to general literature. In like manner 
many archaeologists have observed that the Greeks 
did not practise portrait painting, and have been 
puzzled to explain the fact In Italy the art of 
painting was greatly neglected, as is proved by the 
epigrams of Martial. These epigrams contain the 
most complete description of Roman life under the 
Empire which we have, and though some arts, such 
as the art of embossing silver, are frequently named, 
there is hardly an allusion to painting. But the few 
which there are are almost entirely about portrait 
painting. Though during the best period of Greek 


art the andricela were distinct from the statues by 
virtue of their colour, this distinction was afterwards 
lost. In the epigram of Theaetetus andricelum is a 
generic name for a statue. Pliny, perhaps, was too 
precise when he restricted the invention of painted 
marble to the time of Claudius, and it is more likely 
that the change was gradual. This, however, is a 
question of historical interest alone. The theory can 
only be affected by the practice of the sculptors of 
the earlier period, whose works have made Greece 
illustrious as the parent of the arts. It is most 
unfortunate for those who maintain this view that 
besides the celebrated passage in the Republic of 
Plato, one in which Pliny speaks of the circumlitio of 
statues should be the chief piece of evidence. Much 
has been written about the various meanings which 
this word may bear, which it is superfluous to repeat 
here. So far as the point now before us is concerned, 
a more direct and simpler answer may be given. 
Pliny says that Praxiteles set a higher value on those 
of his own works to which one Nicias gave a 
" circumlitio " than any others, and the conjecture is 
that Nicias coloured them. Unfortunately for this 
argument there are no two facts better established 
in the history of Greek statuary than that the 
Cnidian Venus was the masterpiece of Praxiteles, and 
that this was not coloured. It is described by 


Lucian, or some imitator, in the dialogue called 
''E/Dcore?) and an anecdote is there introduced of which 
the point is that the spectator's eye was caught by- 
one dark stain which contrasted with the dazzling 
purity of the marble. It is quite certain that if this 
statue were coloured it could not have been described 
in the terms which are there used, and there is 
besides in the essay or dialogue called " Icones " a 
reference to it which would alone be sufficient to 
prove that the marble was in its natural condition. 

The word andricelum does not occur in the 
passage in Plato's Republicy which Quatrem^e de 
Quincy cited as proof positive that the Greek statues 
were coloured ; but it is used elsewhere by him, and 
it is convenient to take these other passages first 
The following is one of them : — ovkovv fierh ravra 
oXei, vTToypdy^aadac &v to (rj(fj/ia t^9 TToKireia^ ; rt 
fiTjv; eireira dlfiai airepya^ofievoL irvKvh hv eKaripma 
a*7rol3Xi7roL€v irpo^ re to <l)va'€L iCKaiov kcuL tcaXbv koX 
a'&<f>pov Kal irdvra rh rotavra, xal irpo^ CKeivo ai to 
iv T0Z9 dvOpdnroL^ ifiiroLoiev ^vfifiiyvvvTe^ re xal 
Kepavvvvre^ ix r&v iTnTrjSevfidrayv ro dv8p€(K€\ov, air 
ixelvov reKfjLatpofievoL h Srj xal '^Ofiijpo^ eKoXeaev iv 
T0Z9 dvOpanroL^ iyyiyvofievov OeoeiSe^ t€ xal BeoeixeXov, 
*Op0&^ cifyrj. Kal to fiev &Vf olfiai, i^a\el<f>0L€V, to Sk 
itoKlv €yypd(f}oi,€v, Iq)9 &v ore fidXcara dvOpdyireia ffOrj 
€(9 So'ov ivSi^erac 0eo<f>t\r] 7roti]<r€iav, KaXXlarrf 


^ovv hv €<lyr) 17 ypa<f)^ yevotro. (TLoXireia, p. SOI, 

There is in Greek the idiom which we have in 
English. We speak of " mixing a dose," meaning 
thereby to mix the ingredients which make a dose. 
Plato in this passage speaks of " mixing the andri- 
celum of the ingredients," meaning, "mixing the 
ingredients which make the andricelum." The ques- 
tion is whether the mixture is a mixture of melted 
wax with colour which produces a wax figure, or a 
mixture of colours which produces a new colour. 
The whole sense of the passage requires the former 
interpretation. The dvSpeUeXov corresponds to the 
OeoeUekov. The former is. the combination of 
physical attributes which make up the visible image 
of man ; the latter the combination of moral attri- 
butes which make up the conception of God. The 
definite article is joined to avSpeUeXov. Why should 
Plato speak of tAe andricelum if andricelum means 
flesh-colour ? But the definite article is required if 
the word means the likeness of man. The andri- 
celum is that which results when all the elements are 
present, but flesh -colour is only one of various 
elements. On this hypothesis it is intelligible that 
Plato should use the singular, avhpeUeKov, though 
Theophrastus spoke of avipeUeXa in the plural. 
Plato in his argument passes insensibly from the 


concrete to the abstract, from the particular andri- 
celum which was made of wax to the general mean- 
ing, the likeness of man, though Theophrastus referred 
to the literal or wax images alone. As it is plain 
in this passage that andricelum is not a flesh-coloured 
pigment, a third meaning has been invented. The 
word is said to be sometimes the true complexion of 
a man. But surely it must be the true appearance 
of a man, not simply his complexion. This myste- 
rious word makes its appearance in the Cratylus in 
the following passage : — Tavra Trdvra KaX&<: ivaOea- 
aafJLevov^ hrUrraaOaL em^epew l/cacrov xarh rffv 
6fiOL6rr)Ta, idv re h/ ivl Sep hn<f>ip€i,Vf idv re avy/ee- 
pavvvvra iroKKk ivl, &<m'ep oi ^(oypdifyoL fiovXofievot 
d(f>ofiobovv ivlore fikv Sarpeov fiovov iir'^veyieav, ivlore 
Sk oriovv] aXKo r&v (fyapfidxtov, iari S* Sre iroXXA 
cvyKcpdaavre^, otov orav dvhpelKekov aKevd^axrcv, ^ 
aWo re r&v rotovra)v, (09 &v, olfiat, So/cp eKocrrrf ^ 
cIkodv SeicOac exdcrov (fyapfidKOV* ovroD Srj ical fifJi>el^ 
rh croc^eta iirl rh irpdr/fiara eTToUrofiev, koX iv iirl 
h^, oi &v Sofcy Setv, teal avfiiroKKa, irocovvre^ h 8ff 
avXKafiit^ /cdKovct, /cal avWafict^ ai awrcOevre^:, i^ 
&v rd re ovofiara zeal ret prjfiara cvvrlOerac, xal irdXcv 
i/c r&v ovofidrcDV Kal prffjbdrcDv fiiya ijSrf rv leal kclKjov 
KoX Skov cvamicofiev, &a'7r€p ixel ro ^&ov rp ypa(f>vK§, 
ivravOa rov "kSyov rp ovofuurrifc^ ^ prfropcfc^ fj fj rK 
ioTLv fi T^i/i/. {Cratylus^ p. 424.) 


In this passage the words orav avBpeUeXov 
a-Kevd^axri must be translated either, " when they are 
preparing flesh-colour," or " when they are making' a 
likeness of a man." The argument demands the 
latter sense. The andricelum of the first part of the 
paragraph is the " something fair and whole " of the 
latter part It is the sum total which results when 
the various elements are duly combined. Plato first 
puts the case generally of painters wishing to imitate, 
and then the particular instance of making an andri- 
celum, ie. wishing to imitate a man. The colour of 
the complexion corresponds to the ovofiara or prffjuara 
which must be finally compounded, but are not 
individually sufficient 

It is now possible to understand Plato's words in 
which he speaks of painting statues without doing 
violence to the natural interpretation. Winckelman 
was perplexed by the passage and asked whether 
avSpidvT€^ might not sometimes mean pictures. This 
is certainly not the solution. The sentence Aairep 
oiv &v el fifia<i dvSpidvra^ ypd<l>ovra^ (p. 420, 
Stephens), undoubtedly means : " if when we were 
painting statues ;" but the answer is that the statue 
when painted would cease to be an andrias and 
would have become an andricelum. Plato does not 
say, " if the sculptor or artist were painting a statue," 
as he would have done in conformity with his usual 



practice, if he had intended his example for an 
instance of the artistic practice, but puts the case, " if 
we were painting one." It is an illustration which 
would naturally occur to any one who had often seen 
the artists finishing the solid portraits of wax, and 
perhaps the andricela were sometimes made in this 
way of marble. But it would be a great mistake to 
suppose that because Plato thought that to paint a 
statue was a natural and obvious proceeding, the 
sculptors would have agreed with him. He was a 
great literary artist, but had not a spark of feeling 
for the other arts. Goethe's life shows how different 
the two tastes or capacities are. Goethe's first 
ambition was to become a painter, and it was not 
until repeated failures had convinced him of his 
incapacity that he took to literary art, in which he 
was destined to hold so high a place. Plato held 
the realistic theory of all the arts except poetry. 
They were in his eyes simply so many means of 
representation, and consistently with this view he 
never called them Fine Arts. The illustration which 
Plato gave in this passage in the Republic was repeated 
by Lucian in more elaborate form in the dialogue 
called " Icones " {Portraits or Representations) ^ and 
the mode in which the latter put it removes all possi- 
bility of doubt. The plot is as follows : — Two friends 
meet, one of them in a state of great excitement. 


The latter explains that he has just seen a woman of 
almost incredible beauty, and the question arises how 
he can convey a notion of her charms. He hits on 
the following device : he bids his friend think of all 
the most beautiful female statues which are known, 
and conjure up a mental image in which all their 
several beauties are united. The friend presently 
observes that he has done this, but that he finds a 
fatal defect in his mental picture, for that it is quite 
colourless. He is then bid to think of a number 
of pictures and add in imagination the necessary 
colours. This is conclusive evidence that the statues 
were uncoloured ; but the point to which I desire to 
call attention is that which appears in the end of the 
dialogue. Lucian forgets in the course of his argu- 
ment that he had imagined a painted statue, and ends 
with a comment on the ephemeral nature of wood 
and wax. The usual interpretation of this allusion 
would undoubtedly be that he was thinking of a 
picture painted on a panel of wood It may be, 
however, that he meant an andricelum constructed on 
a wooden skeleton or frame. Pausanias tells us that 
the chryselephantine statues were constructed in this 
way, and the idea may have been borrowed from the. 
construction of andricela. In spite of the evidence 
which there is in this dialogue that the statues were 
not coloured, some writers have been so fascinated by 


Quatrem^re de Quincy's theory as to maintain that 
at least some of the statues were coloured. This is 
asserted in the article on Painting in Smith's Diction- 
ary of Antiquities, But those who say this have not 
sufficiently weighed the testimony of Fausanias. 
They attach too much importance to a remark of 
Plutarch, and neglect a surer authority. Even 
Plutarch does not say that the ar^aXyjira were 
coloured in imitation of nature, and if he had said 
this, the Descriptio of Pausanias would be enough to 
convict him of error. In this long and elaborate 
catalogue of the statues of Greece the kind of marble 
of which each was made is almost always specified, 
and it is unintelligible that Pausanias could have 
known which each was if they were coloured. But 
it is still more unintelligible that if some were 
coloured and others uncoloured no comment should 
be made on this difference. It is certain that it 
would have seemed to him a g^ave question from 
the religious point of view, and that he could not 
have passed it over in silence. If, moreover, time 
or accident had effaced the colours, both he and most 
of the Greeks would have thought that it was a serious 
question whether the Deity would be pleased by a 
restoration, or whether it were fitter that the statue 
should remain as it was. There is not a hint of the 
kind to be found in his narrative from beginning to 


end. Though it is rash to speak quite positively, I 
am tolerably confident that the only places in which 
there is any mention of artificial colouring in con- 
nexion with the statues are the following : — In Book 
II., cap. ii., there is a description of gilded wooden 
statues of Artemis and Dionysus, of which the coun- 
tenances were coated with red paint, aXoi<f>'p epvOpq. 
Kc/coa-fd/rfrai. This word aXoi<f>fj shows that the colour 
was an example of the archaic practice, and was 
not imitative colour. There are in Greek two 
expressions for painting. To paint mechanically or 
coat with colour is aK€l<f>etv ; to paint artificially, or 
imitate, is ypd<f>€iv or ypa<f>fj fiifieia-Oai, Pausanias 
always observes this distinction. In Book VII., cap. 
xxvi., is described a statue of Athene, of which the 
face, hands, and feet were of ivory, the rest of wood 
ornamented with gold and colours. In the same 
chapter a statue of Dionysus is named which was 
scarlet. In Book VIII., cap. xxxix., another Dionysus 
coloured in the same way. These were relics of the 
period when red was the divine colour. Lastly we 
find an instance of a plaster figure of Dionysus which 
was hn/ce/coa-fj/rifiivov ypa^fj. This is the exception 
which proves the rule. It is described, or rather 
named, in Book IX., cap. xxxii., and does not strictly 
count as a statue, because it was made of plaster. 
It was in a private house, — ev ISuorov avSp6<:, — ^and 


this IS an indication that popular sentiment disap- 
proved of it. It is characteristic of the devout 
caution of Pausanias that he does not express any- 
open disapprobation. He has in another place 
described the statue of Antinous, and accorded to it 
the name S/yaXfiay i,e. divine statue, abstaining from 
all dispute of the right of Antinous to divine honour. 
This reticence contrasts signally with the torrent of 
pious vituperation which Clemens Alexandrinus 
poured forth on this question, and it is impossible 
to doubt that Pausanias must have felt secretly 

I will return now to the theory of statuary. The 
art of painting exhausts the contradiction which 
forms a Fine Art of the sense of sight We must 
assume that a similar art of the sense of touch is 
required and consider the ways in which touch 
may be made to contradict itself There are two 
ways in which this may be effected. One is by 
changing the degree of resistance which natural 
objects cause ; another is by changing the degree 
of temperature. Both these lead to the result that 
statuary must be confined to the human body. The 
fluids, air and water, do not satisfy the conditions 
by reason of their fluidity. They do not retain any 
fixed forms, and are unsuitable for the art of the 
three dimensions. Nor among any natural objects 


is there an invariable alliance between forms of a 
given kind and a known degree of resistance except 
in the flesh or muscles of animals, which are undis- 
guised in human beings alone. A blind person 
could obtain a contradiction — not, indeed, so perfect 
as there is in pictures — but still adequate, by render- 
ing the forms of flesh in a hard material. In like 
manner living warm-blooded animals alone are dis- 
tinguishable by a certain fixed temperature. But in 
man alone, where a coating of fur, hair, or feathers 
does not interfere, the peculiar temperature is im- 
mediately discernible to touch. Consequently, here 
too, if the contradiction is effected by the use of a 
cold material, man is the proper subject for the 
sculptor's art. There is a further reason why, on 
the hypothesis that statuary is the Fine Art of the 
sense of touch, human beings should be selected. 
The theory of painting is that all which the eyes 
(the instrument of vision) can observe without a 
movement of the head resolves itself into one image 
which is projected in a plane. The theory of 
statuary must be, on a similar hypothesis, that all 
which a continuous tactual observation, made by the 
hands (the instrument of touch), without a change 
of place, can ascertain, is projected in a three- 
dimensioned image. But an image of this kind is 
necessarily of limited dimensions, and must be of 


some natural object which is in itself interesting, 
inasmuch as that variety of interest which a picture 
afTords cannot be present. Human beings with their 
physical and mental feelings alone fulfil this con- 
dition. It is not a mere conjecture that statuary is 
the art of the sense of touch, for there is a French 
sculptor, known to fame, Monsieur Vidal, who is 
blind. But though it is in theory the art of the 
blind, practically the eyes are used by every one 
who can use them, and practically sculpture must 
be reckoned among the arts of sight. The value 
of this theory must therefore be tested by the 
history of Greek statuary, on the hypothesis that 
the Greek statues were first implements of devotion, 
and that as the artistic sentiment formed itself a 
tendency would be manifested to prefer the naked 
human body, and to represent this in such material 
as would most perfectly contradict the natural quality 
of flesh, whether for the eyes or for the hands, but 
especially for the former. It is obvious tha£ the 
most perfect contradiction which could be obtained 
would be by the employment of white marble, both 
as a hard and brittle substance and as white, and 
this is one of the gr^at changes which occurred as 
the art was developed. Moreover, the desire to 
abolish drapery, wherever religious sentiment allowed 
this, is found. Fausanias observes that the Charites 


were always clad in the older statues, but that in his 
time they were always deprived of their clothing. 
He seems to be scandalised at this want of rever- 
ence, and says that he cannot account for the change. 
{Vide Book IX., cap. xxxv.) 

As in the first period red was the sacred colour, so 
wood was the sacred material. Pausanias mentions 
a number of archaic statues which were of wood and 
apparently uncoloured, and there seems to have been 
a reluctance to abandon the use of this material 
altogether in the early period. This was perhaps a 
very remote tradition. Though we do not know 
with certainty how the first idols were made, it is 
exceedingly likely that there may be some truth in 
the account of this invention which we find in the 
Wisdom of Solomon, It is said there that when 
all the uses which could be made of timber, both for 
construction and firewood, had been exhausted, there 
were left some hard and knotty pieces which the 
primitive artist carved in his idle moments into 
idols. The writer of this does not attempt to dis- 
guise that his object is to make idol-worship ridicu- 
lous, but his perfect candour with regard to this does 
not deprive his words of significance. He does not 
write in the style of one who is inventing, and it 
is not likely that he would have affirmed this if 
nothing supported it The knots which are found 


in timber have often a fantastic likeness to man or 
some other animal, and it may be that the first 
images which were carved were suggested by these. 
The custom once introduced, it was an obvious 
resource in a rude age to select pieces of wood in 
which the task of the image-maker was already half- 
accomplished for him by nature, just as the maker 
of cameos has frequently utilised the accidental 
stains which are found in pebbles or shells. Re- 
ligious tradition is always conservative, and the 
disuse of wood in Greece took place gradually. As 
civilisation advanced a new sentiment was formed 
which conflicted with the tradition, and which, if the 
artists had not been masters of the situation, would 
perhaps not have been allowed. The sacred image 
was, from the religious point of view, a mysterious 
stationary animal endowed with magical properties. 
From the purely artistic point of view, it was an 
" unreal mockery," or toy for the imagination. But 
the latter view arose only by slow degrees, and the 
first step was a compromise. Wood was the 
material employed for the drapery which concealed 
all the form with the exception of the countenance, 
the hands, and the feet, and the artist was allowed 
to gratify his fancy by rendering these in white 
marble. Some examples of this singular com- 
bination were left when Pausanias explored the 


cities of Greece, and have been described by him. 
In Book VII., cap. xxi., an Apollo and an Aphro- 
dite ; in Book VIII., cap. xxv., an Erinnys, and 
the same goddess with another title, are named. 
But as marble was in Greece an ordinary material, 
not distinguished in speech from common stone, the 
devotional sentiment demanded for the more vener- 
able divinities a more costly substance, and ivory 
was employed in place of it in the composite statue 
of Athene, which is described in Book VII. This 
sentiment produced subsequently the chrysele- 
phantine statues, of which the most celebrated were 
the Here of Polyclitus, described in Book II., cap. 
xvii. of Pausanias, and the Athene and Zeus of 
Phidias. This invention has been described as an 
artistic movement. It was in truth a sacrifice of 
art to devotion, and it is said that Phidias expressed 
a preference for white marble, but yielded in defer- 
ence to Athenian sentiment. But neither religion 
nor art would have desired an imitation of natural 
colour in the figure. The red of the archaic period 
was a uniform coating of colour applied sometimes 
to the drapery as well as the figure, and was 
dropped for the purpose of obtaining a more perfect 
contrast instead of increasing the resemblance to 
natural man. There was no objection to the intro- 
duction of ornamental colour in the drapery, pro- 


vided this colour was the unchangeable colour of 
natural materials, not the fugitive colour of paint. 
The garment of the Olympian Jove was thus inlaid 
with precious stones. In the Life of Phidias, in 
Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology 
and Biography y it is said that "on the robe were 
represented (whether by painting or chasing Paus- 
anias does not say, but the former is by far the more 
probable) various animals and flowers, especially 
lilies." This is inaccurate, though Quatremfere de 
Quincy is to blame. Pausanias says that these 
figures were ifiireTroirjfieva. No Greek writer — least 
of all Pausanias — ^would use the word ifiiroi^lv if he 
meant to paint In the passage which immediately 
follows both the usual terms are employed. On the 
throne there were artistic paintings, ypa^ fiefii/irf- 
fiiva ; the barrier which surrounded it was mechani- 
cally painted, aXrjkLTrTai. But this is an instance of 
the way in which Quatrem^re de Quincy supported 
his theory. The author of the article on Painting 
in the Dictionary of Antiquities says, with reference 
to the statues of Praxiteles : "In the circumlitio of 
Nicias the naked form was most probably merely 
varnished, the colouring being applied only to the 
eyes, eyebrows, lips, and hair, to the draperies, and 
the various ornaments of dress; and there can be 
no doubt that fine statues, especially of females. 


when tastefully and carefully coloured in this way, 
must have been extremely beautiful : the encaustic 
varnish upon the white marble must have had very 
much the effect of a pale transparent flesh." It is 
futile to dispute about taste, but as Gibson's practice 
is nearly described in this passage, and as his 
example has not been followed, it is certainly possible 
to doubt that marble statues would be improved by 
this addition, and there is at any rate good evidence 
that the sculptors of Greece held a different opinion. 
Snow is, in the language of religious writers, the 
emblem of moral purity, because moral impurity is 
associated with the red colour of the blood and the 
warm temperature of the blood. The whiteness of 
white marble in like manner suggests the idea of 
coldness, though it is not really colder than other 
substances. As it is also hard no fitter material can 
be discovered for the representation of flesh. But 
though the artistic instinct is perfectly satisfied when 
the forms of the muscles are represented in this 
substance, it is attracted by the folds of flowing 
drapery also, which, when executed in unyielding 
material, afford a very perfect contradiction to 
experience. The sculptors of Greece indulged this 
instinct, and the rigid lines of the earlier draperies 
assumed the charms of the ** flowing line" as art 
progressed. When the drapery as well as the figure 


became in this manner the property of the artist, and 
the whole statue was a creature of the imagination, 
bronze was a material as suitable as marble, for the 
contradiction now was in the idea of resistance alone, 
and a metal is perhaps even better suited to give 
this idea than marble. These two materials were so 
greatly superior to wood by reason of their mani- 
festly greater hardness that the latter substance fell 
into disuse, though not before the word ^oai/oi/, which 
is etymologically a scraped or polished thing, and 
thence a wooden thing, had acquired the meaning 
" an idol." Too many of the ancient bronzes have 
found their way into the melting-pot, but enough 
remain to prove that this substance can rival marble 
for the sculptor's purposes. The artists of Greece 
seem to have preferred it for the representation of 
transitory or momentary attitudes. There is in our 
museum a marble copy of a bronze discobolus by 
Myron in an attitude of this kind. Lessing affirms 
that artists must reject all momentary attitudes. 
" Erhalt dieser einzige Augenblick durch die Kunst 
eine unveranderliche Dauer : so muss er nichts 
ausdriicken was sich nicht anders als transitorisch 
denken lasst." {Sdmmtliche Werke, Czxlsrwhey 1824, 
vol. iii., chap, iii., p. 33.) This, however, was only 
one of the mistakes into which his theory led him. 
The realistic theory weighs heavily on the modern 


sculptor in this matter of drapery. It taxes him with 
unveracity if he dares to ignore the stiff style of 
modern costume, and demonstrates triumphantly that 
at' the present day loose and flowing robes are out of 
fashion. Fortunately for him, collegiate gowns and 
robes of office are still sometimes worn on state 
occasions, and he can explain to his tyrant that 
he has seen these dresses with his own eyes and is 
not utterly unveracious. Nevertheless, the realistic 
arbiter of taste detects the academic prejudice, and 
reserves his full commendation for the artist who does 
not condescend to this subterfuge. 

Lessing's theory of the Laocoon is that the 
sculptor desired to represent a beautiful form in pain. 
" Der Meister arbeitete auf die hochste Schonheit 
unter den angenommenen Umstanden des korper- 
lichen Schmerzes" (chap, ii., p. 28). Winckelman 
had said that the countenance of Laocoon is calm, 
because the Greeks thought that it was unworthy of 
a great man to lose self-possession and cry like a 
child. Lessing appeals to the drama to refute this, 
and declares that the artist desired to embody the 
idea of pain, and represent the expression of it with 
the utmost fidelity ; but that he abstained from 
giving full expression to it in the countenance, 
solely because the lines of the face in repose are 
more beautiful than they are when distorted. The 


theory is, therefore, the realistic theory that perfec- 
tion of representation is the test of excellence, but it 
is practically limited in its application by the con- 
sideration of "The Beautiful." But Lessing does 
not explain why the artist should have desired to 
embody the idea of pain in a beautiful form. Physi- 
cal beauty is, in his theory, a kind of moral virtue. 
He is, as r^[ards this, more Greek than the Greeks 
themselves. Why should he or any one be pleased 
to find an unusually virtuous person in great dis- 
tress and suflfering? His reference to the play of 
Philoctetes is foreign to the point This peculiar 
moral virtue, physical beauty, is not in the play 
presented to the spectator ; and the thoughts of the 
reader or spectator are greatly occupied with the 
plot and characters and incidents. If it were true 
that it is delightful to behold a beautiful form in 
physical pain, and that the delight is justifiable, a 
gladiatorial combat, if the gladiators were well chosen, 
would be much superior to the Laocoon. Alison 
passed over the same question in his argument about 
music. The " higher beauty," he said, is called into 
existence when the idea of revenge is vividly ex- 
pressed. Why should the higher beauty be pleased 
by this ? Juvenal said that revenge is the pleasure 
of a small, narrow, and feeble mind, and Christianity 
agrees with him about this. Why should the higher 


beauty find this contemptible passion so attractive ? 
The indiscreet admirers of the higher beauty do her 
injustice. She is free from these unamiable pro- 
pensities. The great poets of all ages and countries 
have been her architects, and have built her many 
fair mansions from which she has no desire to 
escape. When Alison wrote thus about music he 
was thinking of Dryden's lines — 

" Revenge, revenge, Timotheus cries," etc — 

and was fabricating an explanation of the fact that 
Handel's music is more attractive than the words 
of Dryden. But his explanation is the exact con- 
tradictory of the truth. Such ideas as revenge fade 
from the mind when music asserts her sway, and 
some profounder feeling, too vague for analysis, 
steals over the wrapt mind of the listener. In like 
manner the idea of pain is banished in the presence 
of the Laocoon. The thing is hard, is cold, is 
brittle. Such things cannot feel. Were it tinted 
and coloured, as the realistic theorists think it 
should be, and made to resemble a pathological 
illustration in a surgical museum, undoubtedly we 
should find this excellence which Lessing claims for 
it. It would then be a beautiful form in pain, and 
would be repulsive. As it is, it is a beautiful form 
in a fantastic attitude, at which imagination can 



smile, because imagination knows that it is its own 

Architecture is the art of touch and sight acting 
together. The works which it creates are not images 
corresponding to a series of visual observations as in 
painting, or a series of tactual observations as in 
statuary, but are inventions. The composer and 
executant are distinct, and the invention is the 
union of colours and forms which are not found in 
natural objects. These inventions belong to Fine 
Art only when they suggest and contradict at the 
same time an idea. The idea which architecture 
thus suggests and contradicts is that of organic 
growth, derived from animal organism. The idea 
of a subordination of parts to a whole, which' is 
itself given by animal organism, is the essential idea. 
A row of houses which adjoin each other does not 
constitute an architectural whole, nor does a single 
room. A work of architecture is one in which parts 
are varied, but are so arranged as to produce a unit. 
This is the definition of Vitruvius. " Architectura 
constat ex ordinatione, quae Graece Tal^i,'^ dicitur, et 
ex dispositione — ordinatio est modica membrorum 
operis commoditas separatim, universaeque propor- 
tionis ad symmetriam comparatio" (Cap. ii.) He 
also derives the idea from the forms of the human 
body. "Namque non potest aedes ulla sine sym- 


metricl atque proportione rationem habere composi- 
tionis, nisi uti ad hominis bene iigurati membrorum 
habuerit exactam rationem " (Book III., cap. i.) 
Perhaps he goes too far when he insists that the 
proportions of a building must answer exactly to the 
proportions of the body ; but the idea of proportion 
has probably this origfin. There is no apparent reason 
why a square room should be less pleasing than an 
oblong room unless it is that the latter is more like 
the form of the body. As the idea of architecture is 
thus an organic whole, the requisite forms are those 
which Plato described as eternally beautiful. These 
are not found in natural organisms, and supply the 
necessary contradiction. As the religion of Greece 
was anthropomorphic, the architecture of Greece was 
of this kind, consisting of oblong rectilinear build- 
ings, and the circular form which was more con- 
spicuous in the architecture of Rome was also, in 
all probability, connected with the religious creed of 
the Romans. Though the Romans had statues and 
images, their great God was the ever-burning fire of 
Vesta ; and Vesta was not represented by an image. 
It cannot be reasonably doubted that the sacred fire 
of Vesta represented the sun ; and that her temple 
was round because the orb of the sun is round, can- 
not be an extravagant conjecture. The same form 
reappears on a grander scale in the Pantheon, and 


later ecclesiastical architecture was developed out of 
the basilicas with semi -circular apses in which the 
two forms, circular and rectilinear, were united. Ovid's 
confession that at one time he had supposed that 
Vesta had a statue shows how little importance the 
Romans attached to image worship, and how dif- 
ferent they were from the Greeks in this respect — 

" Esse diu stultus Vestse simulacra putavi : 
Mox didici curvo nulla subesse tholo : 
Ignis inextinctus templo servatur in illo : 
Effigiem nullam Vesta nee ignis habet." 

Perilous as it is to write a priori history, this 
mode must be adopted in writing the history of 
sentiments, and if religious sentiments can have 
a natural origin, there is a strong presumption that 
primitive creeds must be either some form of sun- 
worship, or of ancestor-worship, or of both combined. 
As regards the sun there is abundant testimony that 
both in the new and the old world it has been an 
object of reverence, and the fact that it was deified 
is not disputed. But the presumption that ancestors 
must be deified in primitive races is at least as 
strong. Children regard their parents as beings 
of a different order to themselves, and possessed 
of infinite knowledge, wisdom, and strength. As 
this sentiment has been felt from the first dawn of 
intelligence during countless generations at the time 


of life when the sentiments are formed, there must 
have resulted in adults a tendency to believe in a 
generation superior to themselves, whose protecting 
power might still be experienced, and whose favour 
could be won by obedience and submission. There 
are united, accordingly, in primitive creeds, two dis- 
tinct sentiments : one, a reverence for the sun as the 
manifest daily cause of good ; the other, an instinc- 
tive belief in, and reverence for, a higher kind of 
human being. The architecture of Rome was 
guided chiefly by the former, of Greece by the 
latter, sentiment The latter might, moreover, hav- 
ing given the form of the temples, have added 
the cruciform character of Christian churches, even 
though the cross were not a sacred symbol in Chris- 
tianity. Crosses have been discovered in America 
which were sacred, though it is certain that they 
were in no way connected with Christianity. Dr. 
Rdville's theory is that these crosses were sacred to 
the winds, and represented the four points of the 
compass. If they had been placed horizontally so 
as to point with their arms to north, south, east, and 
west, this would be a probable explanation, but as 
they were vertical, and only pointed in two direc- 
tions, it is doubtful. Religious writers are too apt 
to forget that the cross was invented to suit the 
forms of the human body, and may have been a 


symbol of humanity in heathen religfions. A dis- 
covery which was made last century at Palenque, 
a ruined city of Mexico, strongly supports the con- 
jecture that this was the true origin of these crosses 
which have caused so much speculation. A sculp- 
tured slab was found, on which was represented an 
elaborately decorated cross surmounted by a strange 
bird, and a priest in the act of making an offering 
to this compound idol. As this was a relic of the 
kind of religious creed known as Totemism, it is 
more probable* that the cross and bird represented 
the mythical man-bird which the race .revered, than 
that it was connected with the worship of the winds. 
The slab was broken up and the fragments taken to 
different places, but a woodcut of it, restored, is gfiven 
in the Travels in Mexico, by F. A Ober (Boston, 
1884). Undoubtedly, as a matter of fact, the cruci- 
form shape of churches is chiefly due to the influence 
of Christianity, but, if Vitruvius is right in his theory, 
may be a genuine architectural form apart from this 
association. In like manner the greater attention 
which the ancestors of the Romans paid to the orb 
of the sun may have given the first idea of the arch 
as a means of construction. Familiar as we now are 
with this form, the history of Greece shows that art 
and civilisation may make great progress without a 
discovery of it. 


Shakespeare has embodied the idea which under- 
lies music in the character of the melancholy Jaques. 
It is lawless law, or discord in the spheres. Jaques 
throughout the play incessantly cries out for music, 
yet his friend is astonished that he, compact of jars, 
should turn musical. Music and architecture are 
the two scientific arts. In the latter the contra- 
diction is the substitution of mechanical for organic 
laws in an organic whole. In the former mathe- 
matical law contradicts itself. The harmonies are 
not perfect harmonies ; the symmetry is unsym- 
metrical ; the repetitions are not exact repetitions. 
Impulse is lawless, and the art of uttering feeling 
cannot be trammelled by the mathematical precision 
to which architecture submits. When the science 
or art of composition had reached a certain stage, 
a marked tendency appeared to reject the formal 
obligations which confined the earlier styles. Wag- 
ner's theory is based on the assumption t|^at this 
tendency has no limits ; that the forms of earlier 
compositions have been derived from dance music, 
and that the respect which has been paid to them is 
what in the art of painting is called an academic 
prejudice. This theory evidently is needed to sup- 
port the realistic doctrine that music is an art of 
representation, unless it can be maintained that the 
thing which music represents is, like an architectural 


unit, a symmetrical whole. In cruder and earlier 
speculations the latter view found favour, and music 
was said to represent the perfect arrangement of the 
universe. Hence the often quoted phrase, the music 
of the spheres. But this theory could not suit 
Wagner, who added the doctrine that academical 
prejudice must be overcome, and the dance-music 
propensity driven out Music must in his theory 
represent something, but that something could not 
be an organic unit He fell back, accordingly, on 
the doctrine that music represents the Cosmic Will, 
— a doctrine which cannot be conclusively refuted, 
owing to the difficulty of ascertaining with certainty 
the nature of the Cosmic Will. Between Alison's 
definite and intelligible statement of the realistic 
theory, and Wagner's, or rather Schopenhauer's, in- 
comprehensible doctrine, an infinite number of inter- 
mediate forms are found of which it is superfluous 
to quote examples. All spring from the desire to 
prove that music is in some way an art of repre- 
sentation, and therefore an aid to the understanding ; 
but as each writer in turn tries to improve on his 
predecessor's mode of stating the argument, and as 
those who know most of music adopt the most 
indefinite modes of statement, the inference may be 
fairly drawn that the theory is untenable. It is 
equally certain that the classical theory is unten- 


able, and that the analogy is false between the 
harmony of music and the harmony or adjustment 
of the spheres. Not only is a discordant element a 
necessary part of harmony in music, but the recur- 
rence or repetition of musical phrases occurs with a 
difference. Mozart, in most of his sonatas, obtained 
the requisite variety by a simple artifice which has 
not satisfied more recent composers. He introduced 
a melody, dropped it for a time, then took it up 
again in a new key, and repeated it from beginning 
to end without the change of a single note. This 
artifice of a recurrent phrase is a favourite one of 
Wagner's. He would not have admitted that his 
and Mozart's practice were based on a similar senti- 
ment His, he would have said, represents the 
Cosmic Will, Mozart's was an academic prejudice. 
It is more likely that, as Hogarth forgot the flowing 
line when he painted, Wagner forgot the Cosmic 
Will when busy with musical composition. But the 
realistic movement is always of a retrograde kind, 
and as in Alison's speculation the Pre-Handelian 
theory was defended, so a still more primitive theory 
is declared in the music of the future. The night- 
ingale is an admirable songster, and he has a fine 
taste for some musical effects, among others the 
beauty of a crescendo. But his compositions lack 
artistic finish because there is no obvious reason why 


he should leave off when he does, unless it is that he 
is fatigued for the moment This is a characteristic 
of the more advanced school of music. Musical 


composition has hitherto conformed to the law which 
the other arts obey, that each work of art should be 
of such magnitude as forms an imaginary unit An 
epic poem or a play is defective as a work of art if 
the beginning, the middle, and the end are uncon- 
nected, or cannot be thought of as forming a whole. 
When the eyes are turned away from a picture, a 
statue, or a building, there remains in the mind an 
image which includes all the parts of each. But 
that which cannot be remembered cannot be im- 
agined. When music meanders on from day to day 
no memory can retain the earlier parts and conse- 
quently no imagination can represent them. Music 
is sacrificed on the realistic altar when united to 
dramatic trilogies. The incidents of the plot can be 
remembered, because these produce definite feelings ; 
but the indefinite emotion, which the presentation of 
musical sound causes, cannot be remembered with 
equal fidelity, and the musical memory derives no 
aid from the artificial connexion with dramatic in- 
cident. In Wagner's theory music is like the song 
of the nightingale. Each part as it comes may 
charm the listener, but no artistic whole is formed 
which imagination can retain, and an essential quality 


of Fine Art is absent The notion that the forms 
of music have been derived from dancing is a pure 
fancy which no presumption and no evidence sup- 
ports. It is suggested by the fact that certain kinds 
of music stimulate physical action, so far as it is not 
a mere guess. Some kinds of music have this effect, 
and music has been an instrument of war for this 
reason. But other kinds have the opposite effect. 
They induce a solemn calm, and transport the auditor 
in imagination to some distant and unknown place 
or time. These are the kinds which are dear to 
religion. The third kind is festive music, which has 
doubtless more of the dance characteristic, though it 
would be an exaggeration to derive even this entirely 
from this source, for music without dancing was an 
accompaniment of Jewish banquets. The methodical 
and sjrmmetrical quality of music was not invented 
to suit the dancer, but is a contrast to the natural 
utterance, and thus serves to give the composition its 
artistic character, inasmuch as an impulsive utterance 
is naturally irregular and wanting in form. 

All the four arts of the senses are thus based on 
a contradiction. Fainting is the art of unsubstantial 
substance, statuary of inanimate animation or in- 
sentient feeling, architecture of inorganic organism, 
music of passionless passion or unimpulsive impulse. 



Bacon's description of nature has a world-wide celeb- 
rity, and has been quoted and approved, both by 
authors whose general views of philosophy resemble 
his, and others who reject all his teaching except 
in this one respect In speculation, as in politics, 
strange alliances are sometimes formed to attack a 
common foe, but when the victory is won, and the 
spoil is to be divided, the victors turn their arms 
against themselves. The general character of Bacon's 
philosophic creed is well known. The following ex- 
tract from the Essay on Atheism declares it : — " It is 
true that a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to 
atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's 
minds about to religion, for while the mind of man 
looketh upon second causes scattered, it may some- 
times rest in them and go no farther, but when it 
beholdeth the chain of them confederate and linked 
together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity." 


It would not be readily supposed that the writer of 
this had found a warm and able advocate in John 
Stuart Mill, but it is the fact that Mill's posthumous 
Essay on Naturey repeats and confirms, with a cer- 
tain modification, Bacon's account of the difference 
between art and nature. The latter described the 
task which he had undertaken in his philosophical 
writings as follows : — " Conficimus historiam non 
solum Naturse liberae ac solutae (cum scilicet ea 
sponte fluit et opus suum peragit) qualis est historia 
caelestium, meteorum, terras et maris, mineralium, 
plantarum, animalium, sed multo magis naturae con- 
strictae et vexatae, nempe cum per artem et minis- 
terium humanum de statu suo detruditur atque pre- 
mitur et fingitur." This is Bacon's first definition of 
art The artificial is that which has been thrust 
from its status by man's intervention, and is pressed 
and fashioned, and is in this shape natura constricta 
et vexata. The second definition is given near the 
end of the Destributio Operts, and is the following : — 
" Homo enim naturae minister et interpreter tantum 
facit et intelligfit quantum de naturae ordine opere 
val mente observaverit : nee amplius scit aut potest. 
Neque enim uUae vires causarum catenam solvere 
aut perfringere possint, neque natura aliter quam 
parendo vincitur, Itaque intentiones geminae illae, 
humanae scilicet scientiae et potentiae, vere in idem 


coincidunt, et frustratio operum maxime fit ex 
ignoratione causarum." This is translated as follows 
in Stebbing's edition oiBacoUy in the General Preface 
to the Philosophical Works by Ellis : — ^^ For we can 
command nature only by obeying her, nor can art 
avail anything except as nature's handmaid. We 
can affect the conditions under which nature works ; 
but things artificial, as well as things natural, are in 
reality produced not by art but by nature. Our 
power is merely based upon our knowledge of the 
procedure which nature follows. She is never really 
thwarted or controlled by our operation, though she 
may be induced to depart from her usual course, 
and under new and artificial conditions to produce 
new phenomena and new substances." This is not 
meant for a literal translation, but it fairly represents 
the sense of Bacon's words. Now, supposing it to 
be true, as is said in this passage, that " our power 
is merely based upon our knowledge of the pro- 
cedure which nature follows," or as Bacon puts it, 
knowledge and power are the same, what is the 
explanation of the fact that a human being is de- 
prived of his knowledge when a rope is tightly bound 
round his arms and legs ? It is quite certain that 
a man who can move a chair across his room, when 
not so tied, is unable to do it when he is fastened 
and bound in this way. If those two intentions, 


knowledge and power, vere in idem coincidunty know- 
ledge must have been taken away when the rope 
was tied. Further, how comes it that nature can be 
thrust from her status^ vexed, pressed, and fashioned, 
as is said in the first definition, if, as is said in the 
second, the only way to conquer nature is to obey 
her ? Vexing, thrusting, pressing, and fashioning, is 
not the kind of obedience which usually pleases 
high-spirited persons, such as nature is depicted in 
the second passage. Mill, however, has adopted 
both these descriptions of nature, with such modifi- 
cation as suited his purpose, though that, as it is 
superfluous to say, was not to prove that man must 
needs fly to Providence and Deity. Bacon had in 
his mind two different things when he gave these 
two accounts When he wrote the first passage, he 
was thinking of natura naturata^ the sum total of 
the phenomena which he proposed to investigate, 
and he was obliged to admit that man is, at least in 
part, the cause of these phenomena. When he wrote 
the second, he was thinking of natura naturanSy the 
cause of all phenomena, and as natura naturans was 
in his philosophy only another name for God, he 
was unwilling to admit that man could overrule the 
latter. Mill had a different end in view. He was 
haunted by that spectre, the nature of the will, and 
feared lest, if he allowed that man could turn nature 


from her cotuse, the theolc^;ian would reply tbat, if 
man, surely God can do this. They agreed in their 
desire to minimise, if they could not quite suppress, 
the difference between art and nature ; but the one 
proposed to draw the inference that there is only 
one first cause, the other that there is no first cause 
known. Bacon, however, either did not understand, 
or was reluctant to state clearly, the theistic view. 
It has been given by Bossuet, who knew his own 
mind and had no hesitation, in his treatise on Free 
Will. " Mais tel qu'il (Dieu) est k regard de toute la 
mati^re, et de tout son mouvement, tel a-t-il voulu que 
je fusse k I'^ard de cette petite partie de la mati^re 
et du mouvement, qu'il a mis dans la dependance 
de ma volontd" This is the view which Bacon's 
philosophy requires. One small part of material 
substance {t,e. the voluntary muscles) has been sub- 
jected to the authority of man, or, as it should rather 
be, of animals. The term nature being substituted 
for God, it is also the view which Mill's philosophy 
requires, though he had not discovered this when he 
composed the Essay on Nature, What is meant 
when it is said that " we " can move things ? Is the 
body a part of the " we " or not ? If it is not, the 
integrity of the "we" cannot be impaired by a 
paralysis of the muscles. But any one who could 
move the smallest object in the slightest degree, in 


spite of a total paralysis of the muscles, would have 

wrought a miracle. If, on the other hand, the body 

is a part of the " we," our power cannot be " based 

merely on our knowledge of the procedure which 

nature follows," for the most irrational animals share 

it The fish who swims against the stream possesses 

it, but he knows nothing of the procedure which 

nature follows. Mill in his Logic has cited Bacon as 

an instance of the danger of using metaphor and 

rhetoric in philosophy. He should have taken 

warning, and mistrusted a description of nature 

which could not be given without metaphors. A 

definition which brings in phrases about obedience 

and handmaids is self-convicted of error. It cannot 

be true that nature can be vexed and pressed and 

fashioned, and at the same time only overcome by 

obedience, and Bacon only says this because his 

theological opinions, which he professes to forget 

in his philosophical speculations, would not permit 

themselves to be forgotten. Nor could Mill forget 

his, though he subsequently saw that he could not 

bear arms by the side of Bacon. It is said in the 

Preface to the Essays on Religion that Mill was well 

satisfied with this Essay on Nature^ though he did 

not publish it A comparison of it with the later 

essays on Theism will show that this must be a 




The following is Mill's version of the Baconian 
description : — '* Nature, then, in its simplest accepta- 
tion is a collective name for all facts, actual and 
possible ; or, to speak more accurately, a name for the 
mode, partly known to us, and partly unknown, in 
which all things take place. For the word suggests 
not so much the multitudinous details of the pheno- 
mena, as the conception which might be formed of 
their manner of existence as a mental whole by a 
mind possessing a complete knowledge of them ; to 
which conception it is the aim of science to raise 
itself by successive steps of generalisation from ex- 
perience. Such, then, is a correct definition of the 
word Nature. But this definition corresponds only 
to one of the senses of that ambiguous term. It is 
evidently inapplicable to some of the modes in which 
the word is familiarly employed. For example, it 
entirely conflicts with the common forms of speech by 
which Nature is opposed to Art, and natural to arti- 
ficial. For in the sense of the word Nature which 
has just been defined, and which is the true scientific 
sense, Art is as much Nature as anything else, and 
everything which is artificial is natural. Art has no 
independent powers of its own ; Art is but the em- 
ployment of the powers of Nature for an end." It 
is not surprising that Mill never published this ; the 
wonder is that, having written it, he left it standing 


The concluding words of the paragraph, " Art has 
no independent powers of its own ; Art is but the 
employment of the powers of Nature for an end," is 
as much as to say, " Art has no independent powers 
except its own independent powers," and, in the words 
which precede, there is the classical and mediaeval 
superstition that words have some sacred value, and 
are not simply the implements of thought No one 
was usually more quick than Mill to point out that 
the true scientific use of words cannot be one which 
** entirely conflicts with the common forms of speech," 
and no one would usually have been more prompt 
to ask how it can happen that men of all ages and 
countries have drawn a distinction between art and 
nature, if "Art is as much Nature as anything else." 
He subsequently repeats and sums up this definition 
in the following terms : — " It thus appears that we 
must recognise at least two principal meanings in 
the word Nature. In one sense it means all the 
powers existing in either the inner or the outer 
world, and everything which takes place by means 
of those powers. In another sense, it means not 
everything which happens, but only what takes place 
without the agency or without the voluntary and 
intentional agency of man " (p. 8). It is true that 
there is this double use of the word ** nature," which 
Mill describes, but he omits an all-important item. 


There is in popular opinion and ordinary speech a 
double contrast. The natural is set in opposition to 
(i) The supernatural ; (2) The artificial. Mill entirely 
ignores the former contrast, and by omitting it so 
defines the word nature as to give it the meaning of 
The Absolute. . He treats it as a collective name for 
every possible object of thought This kind of error 
is not uncommon. Controversialists who desire to 
prove that some opinion is wrong, b^n by denying 
that such opinion exists. It is strange that Mill 
should have made such a mistake, but he certainly 
has in this essay. In all the earlier part of it he 
entirely keeps out of sight the fact that mankind do 
believe in the supernatural, though his chief purpose 
is to convince them that they ought not to do so. 
The result of this is, that as it is quite impossible to 
investigate The Absolute, the second meaning of the 
word nature, in which it is contrasted with art, is 
surreptitiously introduced' in all the earlier part of 
the essay which treats professedly of nature in " the 
true scientific sense." Nature must be distinguished 
from something for the purpose of discussion, and, as 
he refuses to distinguish the natural from the super- 
natural, he is obliged to distinguish it from the arti- 
ficial. In this dilemma he attempts, as Bacon did, 
in his second definition, to prove that if human 
intervention has some effect on nature, it is, at any 


rate, insignificant. The style is different, but the 
end in view is the same. It is to reduce to a mini^ 
mum the operations of art. The following passage 
is a sample : — " In these and all other artificial 
operations the office of man is, as has been often 
remarked, a very limited one. It consists in moving 
things into certain places." Mill cannot have been 
satisfied with this, and his later essays prove that he 
was not. Is the ** office" of man, when he moves 
things, the same as the ** office" of the running 
3tream, or the gale of wind which moves things? 
If it is, the statement is false, because man has not 
even a limited office as opposed to nature. Is it a 
different "office," and one which inanimate nature 
does not discharge ? If it is, it is not a limited 
office, for it is one to which there is, as Mill after- 
wards saw, only one parallel, viz. the power of God 
to work miracles. In the Essay an Revelation he 
wrote as follows : — ^^ Those who argue thus af e 
mostly believers in Free Will, and maintain that 
every human volition originates a new chain of causa- 
tion, of which it is itself a commencing link, not 
connected by invariable sequence with any anterior 
fact Even, therefore, if a divine interposition did 
constitute a breaking-in upon the connected chain of 
events by the introduction of a new originating cause 
without root in the past, this would be no reason for 


discrediting it, since every human act of volition does 
precisely the same. If the one is a breach of law, 
so are the others. In fact the reign of law does not 
extend to the origination of volition." {Three Essays 
on Religion^ Longmans and Co., 1874, p. 227.) 
This is the position which Mill was obliged to take 
when he proceeded to argue about miracles : that 
the reign of law does not extend to the origination 
of volition. He had fought on the other side his 
whole life through, and he finally laid down his arms. 
When he wrote the Essay on Nature^ he still clung 
to the doctrine that the wind which carries a feather 
is a cause of motion in the same sense in which a 
bird which carries a feather in its bill is a cause. The 
former kind of cause belongs to what he and most 
others call the reign of law, and he would not allow 
that any motion of any kind was outside this king- 
dom. But, finding it impossible to assert this con- 
sistently, he adopted the device which appears in the 
sentence quoted above, where the office of man is 
said to be limited, and motion is described as an 
insignificant phenomenon. It is, in fact, the one 
grand phenomenon of the universe, and if man, by 
the aid of the voluntary muscles, can move one thing 
from one place to another, he can do (though on a 
narrower scale) all which theologians affirm that 
God can do without the intervention of muscles. If 


the vital principle is a thing, when the dead are 
restored to life, the miracle has consisted in putting 
that thing back into a position which it had quitted ; 
if it is not a thing, the miracle has consisted in put- 
ting the atoms which compose organic substances 
into the place from which they had departed in the 
process of disease and decay. In various passages 
in the Essay an Revelation Mill seems to have seen 
for a moment that the real question about the possi- 
bility of miracles is simply the question whether 
what is called volition can cause a movement in any 
substance except the voluntary muscles ; but he never 
completely grasped the truth, because he clung to 
the last to the belief that volition is something quite 
different in kind from a wish. 

In the Essay on Revelation^ which contains his 
last words on this subject, he says, " In the first case 
(human action) all the physical phenomena except 
the first bodily movement are produced in strict 
conformity to physical causation ; while that first 
movement is traced by positive observation to the 
cause (volition) which produced it" (p. 228). Now 
it is quite evident that if it is possible to trace a 
bodily movement by observation to volition, it must 
be possible to observe volition. If no such country 
as America could be observed, it would be impossible 
to trace the origin of the potato to America. It is 


equally obvious that volition cannot be observed by 
the physical senses. We cannot handle, smell, taste, 
see, or hear it If, therefore, it can be observed, the 
observation must be a mental introspection, and it 
must be observable as the feelings of anger or hunger 
are. Let us, therefore, take an example of a volun- 
tary act, and inquire what can be observed. Let us 
suppose an indolent person lying in his bed, thinking 
that it would be wise to*get up, and wishing to get up, 
but still lying on. At last the voluntary act comes. 
He gets up. What can be observed in consciousness ? 
Absolutely nothing except a sense of effort If, there- 
fore, volition is not the same as wish, it is a name 
for effort Then occurs the difficulty. The sense of 
effort does not precede the act, and cannot be con- 
ceived otherwise than as caused by an act. Volition 
therefore is both cause and effect The case would 
be clear enough, were it not that there is a distinction 
between mental and bodily efforts. A mental effort 
may precede a bodily effort, and mental efforts are 
frequently unconnected with bodily efforts. It may 
be that if physiology were capable of discovering the 
whole truth, it would be found that mental efforts 
are muscular efforts. It is certain that they exhaust 
the physical powers like bodily efforts, and that ill- 
ness or want of food, which destroys the capacity for 
the one kind of effort, weakens also the capacity for 


the other kind. But whether this is so or not, it 
still remains true that volition taken as a name for 
effort is at once cause and effect As a feeling it 
can be observed ; as a cause it is a fiction of logic 
which accounts for the feeling. But it is usually, 
discussed as if there could be no doubt about the 
meaning of the word, and the difficulty is treated as if 
it were a metaphysical one about the intercommunion 
of body and mind, instead of a logical one about 
cause and effect Professor Clifford made this mis- 
take in his essay called Body and Mind. He put 
the case as follows : — ^^ Again, if anybody says that 
the will influences matter, the statement is not untrue, 
but it is nonsense. The will is not a material thing ; 
it is not a mode of material motion. Such an asser- 
tion belongs to the crude materialism of the savage. 
The only thing which influences matter is the posi- 
tion of surrounding matter, or the motion of sur- 
rounding matter. It may be conceived that at the 
same time with every exercise of volition there is a 
disturbance of physical laws ; but this disturbance 
being perceptible to me, would be a physical fact 
accompanying the volition, and could not be the 
volition itself, which is not perceptible to me." It 
may be well to explain, first, that Professor Clifford's 
remark about the crude materialism of the savage 
has reference to an argument which' preceded this 


passage. He had borrowed Mr. H. Spencer's account 
of the way in which savages acquire a belief in 
ghostly personages, and he treats a belief in ghosts 
as if it were a belief in a material will. It is almost 
superfluous to observe that no one could rightly be 
called a savage who was capable of forming and ex- 
pressing an opinion about the nature of the will. In 
the argument there are two contradictory views. He 
begins by saying, that if any one says that the will 
influences matter, this statement is not untrue, but is 
nonsense. Having aflirmed this, he immediately 
shifts to the other point of view ; and assuming that 
the statement has some meaning, proceeds to de- 
monstrate that it is untrue. He then loses himself 
in a labyrinth of self-contradiction. He declares 
that it may be conceived that there is a disturbance 
of physical law, though the whole object of the essay 
is to demonstrate that this is inconceivable, and 
speaks as if in his philosophy it were denied, or 
could be denied, that feeling affects matter, and matter 
feeling. There have been philosophers who have 
denied this, but he is not one of them. Anger and 
fear are immaterial, yet they affect the circulation of 
the blood and cause tremor. The feelings of colour 
and of sound, and all the physical feelings, are im- 
material as well as the mental feelings, yet an irrita- 
tion of the material nerves causes them. This is not 


denied in the philosophy of Professor Clifford, and 
he is not really troubled by the metaphysical diffi- 
culty which he introduces. But he is obliged to 
argue the question in this way, because he cannot 
shake off the belief that the word volition has some 
meaning for him. It cannot be conceived that there 
is a violation of physical law, for the all-sufficient 
reason that a violation of physical law is a contra- 
diction in terms. A physical law is an invariable 
sequence, and though it is easily conceivable that a 
supposed law may be disproved, no one can conceive 
that a sequence is both variable and invariable. It is 
equally impossible, if his account is taken, to conceive 
an exercise of volition. He says that volition is not 
perceptible to him. If it is not, the word must be a 
name for nothing ; but it is no more possible to con- 
ceive an exercise of nothing than it is to conceive 
that a given proposition is both universally true, and 
not universally true. In the latter part of the essay, 
where miracles are discussed, there is a metamorphosis 
of opinion like Mill's, and all which is denied in this 
paragraph is treated as an elementary and obvious 
truth. Theological complications have everywhere 
involved the question in an artificial obscurity. It 
is connected with the mystery of personality and 
responsibility, and all who write about it are secretly 
attacking or supporting a thesis which they do not 


avow. It would not have found a place in Pro- 
fessor Clifford's writings if he had adhered to his own 
principles. His philosophy is of the kind which is 
known commonly by the ill-chosen name " positive." 
He insists that the true philosopher should observe 
facts with an unprejudiced mind, and remember that 
the question which should guide his studies is the 
question "what," not the question "why." An 
attempt to answer the latter will, he says, only be- 
wilder the inquirer, and prudence requires that he 
should keep to the former, which is not beyond his 
powers. Perhaps philosophy will decline to be 
limited in this way ; but a sound philosophy cannot 
deny that it is desirable to settle the " what " of 
things before the " why " is investigated. If the 
question what a particular word means is answered 
differently by different controversialists who use it, 
and differently by the same writer in different places, 
the controversy must be both fruitless and endless. 
But little care has been taken to ascertain what voli- 
tion means. A very large part of the innumerable 
dissertations on this question are about the nature of 
wishes or desires. These can be discussed, because 
they can be observed, and are not fictions of logic. 
But the word volition or will is allowed to wander, 
and take from time to time other meanings, and Mill 
seems never to have made up his mind what he 

viii.] ART AND NATURE. 333 

meant by it In his Logic he says, " A habit of 
willing is commonly called a purpose ; and among 
the causes of our volitions, and of the actions which 
spring from them, must be reckoned not only likings 
and aversions, but also purposes " (vol. ii., p. 489); 
In the Essay on Nature^ he says, " Even the volition 
which designs, the intelligence which contrives, and 
the muscular force which executes these movements 
are themselves powers of Nature." In the former of 
these definitions purposes are said to form a part of 
the cause of volition ; in the second, it is said that 
volition designs, ije, is a cause of purposes, unless 
there is a difference between design and purpose. If 
there is a distinction, it is very subtle. If one man 
said that he designed to build a house, and another- 
that he purposed to do so, it would not be easy to 
distinguish between the two mental states. The 
habit of willing, of which Mill speaks, can, in fact, be 
resolved into a habit of imagining some feeling 
which is not felt at the time. The indolent person 
in bed imagines the discomfort which will ultima;tely 
be felt if he does not get up ; imagines at the same 
time the sense of effort which the act of getting 
up will cause ; imagines that the former discomfort 
will be greater than the latter, and does get up. 
Imagination creates a desire to get up, which would 
not come into existence without its intervention. 


This particular kind of wish or desire, which can 
only be gratified by an act which is accompanied by a 
sense of effort is called volition ; but if it differs from 
other wishes, differs only in the fact that without 
intelligence, or the faculty of imagining and compar- 
ing things, it would not come into existence. If, 
therefore, the principles of " positive " philosophy are 
granted, it must be allowed that man is a first cause 
in the only sense in which a first cause is conceivable, 
inasmuch as a movement can be traced to intelli- 
gence. We cannot get beyond intelligence, or the 
faculty of comparing, but can trace the history down- 
wards. It creates an artificial desire ; this desire 
directs the nervous energy into a channel which 
otherwise it would not take, and man, as a compound 
of muscles, intelligence, and desires, of which the 
nerves are the connecting link, is a first cause. The 
nervous energy, " determined" in this way, overcomes 
some resistance, and sense of effort is felt as this 
vis inerticB is overpowered. 

Theologians and atheistical philosophers are alike 
unwilling to admit that man can be a first cause : 
the former, because they will not allow that there is 
any first cause except God ; the latter, lest they 
should be found fighting in the theological ranks if 
they admit the possibility of a first cause. But the 
theologians are inconsistent when man is in question. 


for it is a part of their creed that God made man in 
His own image, and their antagonists are inconsistent 
with regard to animals generally, for it is a part of 
their creed that like causes produce like effects, and 
they can only defend their position, as Mill did, by 
denying that there is a difference between art and 
nature. But Mill, in his Essay on Nature^ relying on 
the false statement with which he began that there 
are in common use two contradictory meanings of 
the word nature, emphasises in the latter part of his 
argument the contrast between art and nature which 
he denied in the earlier part. He discusses in the 
latter part natura naturanSy attributing to it for the 
moment the meaning which it had in Bacon's writ- 
ings, and caricatures it as follows : — " Such are 
Nature's dealings with life. Even when she does 
not intend to kill she inflicts the same tortures in 
apparent wantonness. In the clumsy provision which 
she has made for that perpetual renewal of animal 
life, rendered necessary by the prompt termination 
she puts to it in every individual instance, no human 
being ever comes into the world but another human 
being is literally stretched on the rack for hours and 
days, not unfrequently issuing in death. Next to 
taking life, equal to it (according to a high authority) 
is taking the means by which we live, and nature 
does this too on the largest scale and with the 


most callous indifference " (p. 30). *' The course of 
natural phenomena being replete with everything 
which, when committed by human beings, is most 
worthy of abhorrence, any one who endeavoured in 
his actions to imitate the natural course of things 
would be universally seen and acknowledged to be 
the wickedest of men" (p. 65). In these passages 
Mill is attacking the so-called Law of Nature. The 
following words show what was in his mind : — " But 
even though unable to believe that Nature, as a 
whole, is a realisation of the designs of perfect 
wisdom and benevolence, men do not willingly 
renounce the idea that some part of Nature, at 
least, must be intended as an exemplar or type ; 
that on some portion or other of the Creator's works 
the image of the moral qualities which we are 
accustomed to ascribe to him must be impressed ; 
that, if not all which is, yet something which is, 
must not only be a faultless model of what ought 
to be, but must be intended to be our guide and 
standard in rectifying the rest" (p. 41). If the 
theologicum odium had not taken possession of Mill 
when he wrote these and other passages like them, 
he could hardly have failed to be struck by the fact 
that the wickedest men, or even moderately wicked 
men, might greatly improve their conduct if they 
would strictly imitate the actions of nature. Wicked 


men are in the habit of taking things which they did 
not give in the first instance. But if nature takes 
life it is only fair to remember that nature first 
gave life, and if nature inflicts pain, nature sometimes 
affords pleasure. Wicked men do not imitate her in 
this respect, and their imitation is very one-sided. 
When Mill afterwards composed the essays on 
Theism, he found that a philosopher who desired to 
deny the existence of a beneficent Deity could not 
affirm the existence of a Devil, even though it might 
be called Nature. Life would have come to an end, 
if it ever came into being, if there were at work a 
potent malignant influence which was not counter- 
balanced by a beneficent influence. In the earlier 
essay nature is said to use art and kill or torture 
with malice aforethought This is a fit sequel to 
the doctrine that there is no difference between art 
and nature. But in the Essay on Attributes there is 
the following very different account : — " Along with 
the preserving agencies there are destroying agencies, 
which we might be tempted to ascribe to the will of 
a different Creator ; but there are rarely appearances 
of the recondite contrivance of means of destruction, 
except when the destruction of one creature is the 
means of preservation to others. Nor can it be 
supposed that the preserving agencies are wielded 

by one Being, the destroying by another. The de- 



stroying agencies are a necessary part of the preserv- 
ing agencies ; the chemical compositions by which 
life is carried on could not take place without a 
parallel series of decompositions. The great agent 
of decay in tpth organic and inorganic substances is 
oxydation, and it is only by oxydation that life is 
continued for even the length of a minute. The 
imperfections in the attainment of the purposes which 
the appearances indicate have not the air of having 
been designed. They are like the unintended results 
of accidents insufficiently guarded against, or a little 
excess or deficiency in the quantity of some of the 
agencies by which the good purpose is carried on, 
or else they are consequences of the wearing out of 
a machinery not made to last for ever ; they point 
either to shortcomings in the workmanship as regards 
its purpose, or to external forces not under the 
control of the workman, but which forces bear no 
mark of being wielded and aimed at by any other 
and rival intelligence" (p. 185). What a differ- 
ence between Mill the philosopher and Mill the 
theologian ! 

The wild bird shut up in a cage batters its wings 
against the wires in a vain attempt to escape, but 
is not supposed to possess a will as distinct from a 
wish, because intelligence does not direct its efforts. 
The prisoner who, immured in a cell, labours to 


remove a stone, is said to will as well as to wish to 
escape, because his understanding shows him how he 
can gratify his desire, and turns his energies into a 
definite course. The terms " wish " and " will " may 
therefore be employed as the point of view of the 
speaker determines. The prisoner wishes to escape, 
and therefore it is his will that the stone should be 
removed, or it is his will to escape, and he therefore 
wishes to remove the stone. When it is said that 
he will escape, his imagination is supposed to be 
concentrated on the general result, and the task of 
removing the stone is like the action of the bird ; 
when it is said that he will remove the stone, his 
attention is supposed to be concentrated on this 
operation, and his desire to escape is like the bird's. 
Will or volition is, accordingly, a name for wishes 
which are derived from intelligence, and as the 
intelligence of animals exists in every possible 
degree, a wish cannot be absolutely distinguished 
from volition, but passes into it imperceptibly. A 
given act is caused by the will or a wish in accord- 
ance with the idea of a co-operation of the under- 
standing. The general wish of a prisoner to escape 
changes into a special wish to remove a stone, when 
his intelligence tells him that he can satisfy his 
general wish in this way, and it is then his will that 
the stone should be removed. Again his intelligence 


shows him that he can gratify this wish if he can 
obtain a knife or a nail, and this in turn becomes 
his will. His thoughts are directed to the means 
by which he can obtain them, and if he can think 
of a way, it is his " intention " to do so, i.e. the 
imagined act is constantly present to his mind, and 
forms a fresh set of special wishes. When the knife 
or nail is obtained, a new wish to find a crevice into 
which he may insert one of them becomes his will 
and causes a new set of actions. If the discussion is 
confined to that which can be observed the sequence 
is plain enough. Impulse is replaced by desires 
which can be traced to memory, intelligence, and 
imagination. The necessity of postulating a thing 
called " volition " has arisen, as Mr. H. Spencer has 
observed, from the prior fabrication of an entity 
called the ego. It is not surprising that a logical 
fiction attached to a logical fiction should have 
bred an interminable controversy. But whatever 
the metaphysical and theological truth may be, the 
egOy as a cause of motion, has no existence except 
when it includes the physical frame. Magicians 
claim for themselves an ego of a different kind, but 
claim at the same time a supernatural power. The 
will is, therefore, distinguishable from a wish only as 
species to genus, and this distinction is only relative. 
The efforts of the bird in a cage are, relatively to the 


efforts of a prisoner in a cell, the results of wish and 
impulse ; but are, perhaps, relatively to the actions of 
some lower animals, the results of wish and intelli- 
gence. The bird may have a faint knowledge that 
it can sometimes overcome obstacles by flying against 
them, and may imagine that it can break the wires. 
Those who think this might say that its efforts are 
caused by the will ; those who think otherwise would 
deny the operation of volition. But every definite 
and positive idea is attended by an indefinite negative 
contradictory. It is impossible to think definitely of 
a phenomenon or set of phenomena as caused by 
volition without, at the same time, recognising in- 
definitely other phenomena as not caused by volition. 
A name is therefore required for unintentional as 
well as for intentional phenomena. As the pheno- 
menon which attracts most attention, and is at the 
same time most inexplicable, is the birth and evolu- 
tion of organic substances, the word nature has 
become in all languages the name of the non- 
intentional. The natural is either that which is not 
caused by the Divine Will or that which is not 
caused by the will of man. One person, looking at 
a phenomenon, and thinking of it in connexion 
with its cause, may exclude it from the natural ; to 
another it may be present in thought only as a fact 
of consciousness which need not for the moment 


be explained, and be classified with the natural. 
Philosophy, however, surveys all phenomena in turn 
and seeks to explain them, and the philosopher has 
four courses to choose from. He may either, like 
Bacon, admit a natura naturans identifying it with 
God ; or he may, with Plato in the Laws, protest 
that it is impious to speak of nature as if it could 
be a cause ; or he may, with many philosophers 
both ancient and modem, abstract the idea of force 
or energy from the compound impression of intelli- 
gence, desire, and muscular power, and postulate this 
abstraction as the universal cause. If he declines all 
these three courses he must say, as Professor Clifford 
says in his Essay on the Physical Forces^ that a sound 
philosophy discards the question " why " and keeps 
to the question "what," for each day adds to the 
proof that ideas have, like tastes and sentiments, a 
natural origin, and are not derived from inspiration, 
and cannot be created. 

The phenomena which attract attention, and for 
which, consequently, imagination demands a cause, 
are the unusual ones. The changes of the seasons, the 
alternation of day and night, and the ordinary fluctua- 
tions of the weather, seem to most to be natural, or 
not caused by intention, because they are constant 
and familiar phenomena. But a shower of falling 
stars, an eclipse, an earthquake, an unusual period of 


drought or rain, startle the beholder or excite his 
interest by the mischief which they cause, and they 
are regarded as warnings or penalties. Most or all 
of those who hold such opinions would, if compelled 
to examine their own creed, say, as Plato said, that 
it is impious to treat any phenomena as caused by 
nature, and that ordinary as well as extraordinary 
phenomena are all part of the divine scheme. But 
practically the distinction is drawn, and those who 
in theory deny nature and chance, do not scruple to 
use such phrases as " it happened to be fine," or " it 
is natural that all should die." As the natural is 
thus the constant or familiar, inasmuch as the con- 
stant or familiar is that which need not be explained, 
the natural is further contrasted with the unnatural 
as good with evil. Both the theory of evolution, in 
which it is supposed that a process of adaptation 
goes on, and the theological theory that all things 
are pre-ordained by a beneficent Providence, lead 
up to the result that the constant is the good. The 
natural man is corrupt in the theological theory, only 
because in that theory a temporary disturbance of 
the divine scheme has been permitted. But the 
intentional acts of animals, or those which can be 
traced to their intelligence and desires, pass at 
both ends of the scale by a continuous transition 
into natural acts, or acts which cannot be traced to 


this origin. At the one end such a feeling as the 
craving for food becomes gradually a conscious desire 
of food as a pleasure or necessity, and intelligence 
joins hands with instinct in the means adopted to 
gratify it ; at the other, the acts which are at first 
intentional become automatic and * form a second 
nature when they have been often repeated. Art is 
therefore the mistress, not only of inanimate nature, 
but of man's nature, or of those attributes which are 
constantly present in man. It is natural for the 
savage to live in caves, but it is equally natural for 
civilised man to live in houses, because repeated acts 
form habits, and the attributes of civilised man are 
the product of a natural or unintentional transmission 
of habits. But the fittest survive, .and the second 
nature must be an improvement on the first nature. 
So soon, therefore, as art, or intention, begins to 
qualify nature a conflict arises. On the one hand, as 
the fittest survive, the nature of man is ever adapting 
itself to the conditions in which he is placed ; on the 
other, the conditions are ever being changed, and 
the fittest is never fit The fittest to survive when 
society was ill -organised and war was the chief 
interest is not the fittest now, and the fittest in the 
backwoods of America is not the fittest in London. 
The second nature being a temporary and changing 
nature is not a true nature, and the Golden Age is 


not all a dream. But it was a Golden Age of a 
negative kind, such as the brutes enjoy, untroubled 
by an artificial nature imperfectly adapted to the 
artificial nature of surrounding conditions. The 
true or original nature, however, cannot be entirely 
destroyed, for it is deeply seated, and art has not 
changed all the phenomena which formed it In 
the midst of the pursuits with which the second 
nature is occupied there remain the instincts and 
sentiments which were implanted, in the manner 
described by Mr. H. Spencer, during remote periods 
of time. The true or original nature reveals itself 
in a desire to fly in imagination from the sordid 
cares and petty troubles of artificial life, and to 
live once more in a Golden Age untroubled by arti- 
ficial interests. The Fine Arts gratify this instinct. 
Modem society is natural and yet unnatural, good 
and yet evil. Its customs, its passions, its opinions, 
and etiquette, are inevitable, yet it is sweet to forget 
them. The poet and the artist lend their aid. 
They transport the reader or the auditor or spectator 
to an unknown realm where the realities of the second 
nature do not trouble him, and where The Beautiful, 
as it is called, is supreme. The Beautiful, in this 
wider sense, is only the name of a thousand feelings 
so vague that they cannot be defined, and so faint 
that one does not destroy another. These are called 


into existence by a magic wand which the poet 
and the artist hold, and the name of this wand is 

In the Esth/tique of M. Eugfene Vdron a defini- 
tion of the Fine Arts is given which is practically a 
denial of genius, and is for that reason an assertion 
of the realistic theory, which he nominally rejects. 
The peculiarity of the Fine Arts is, he says, that the 
genius and skill of the author are admired in his 
work. This definition destroys the distinction 
between skill and genius. It has been repeatedly 
said that Homer has genius and Virgil skill, and the 
proof which is adduced is that the latter does not 
permit the reader to forget him, while Homer, the 
author, is forgotten when the reader takes up the 
Iliad. But it is impossible to think at the same 
time of two different things, and to admire an 
author when the author is forgotten. The proof of 
Homer's genius being that his poem monopolises 
the attention, it cannot be true that Homer's genius 
is admired when the poem is read. Virgil's skill is 
admired and Virgil is not forgotten. M. E. V^ron, 
however, says that this holds good of all the Fine 
Arts, and cites, by way of proof, the fact that a 
representation of a disagreeable reality is sometimes 
pleasing, observing that this is a proof that some- 
thing has been added to the representation which 


was not in the reality. This something, he says, 
must be the genius of the author or artist. His 
argument contains a fallacy. The superiority of the 
representation may be due to an omission as well as 
to an addition. A dish which is flavoured with 
garlic may be distasteful, though the same dish may 
please the taste when the garlic is omitted. It is 
more certain that in the art of painting, to which he 
refers, something has been omitted, than that any- 
thing has been added, for there can be no doubt 
that the third dimension has been left out. If, on 
the other hand, something has been added, whence 
can this something have come ? Skill is the adapta- 
tion of means to an end, and comes from the 
author's intention ; but if there is genius also in the 
work, and if genius differs from skill, it must have a 
different origin. Cousin's answer is that ideality is 
derived from the infinite, and that the Fine Arts 
form a bridge which connects the finite with the 
infinite. But he has also said that we are separated 
from the infinite by a chasm which cannot be 
traversed, and know nothing whatever of it. The 
word genius is in fact the name of a hypothetical 
cause of an effect which is felt, but for which there 
is no adequate explanation. It is like the word 
nature in etymology, and resembles it in meaning. 
Nature is the hypothetical cause of phenomena 


which are not explained ; genius is the hypothetical 
cause of artistic excellence which is inexplicable. 
The grace beyond the reach of art which is found in 
some poems, statues, pictures, buildings, and musical 
compositions, fascinates the listener or spectator, and 
banishes for the time the actualities of existence. 
Some name is required for this magical excellence, 
and it is called genius. But it is an afterthought, 
and is not like skill present to consciousness at the 
time. The reader who is walking by the side of 
Dante and Virgil, and contemplating the horrors of 
hell, cannot be admiring the genius of the author ; 
and the lover of music who has been carried by 
Beethoven to an unknown land where nothing but 
sound is real, cannot be thinking of Beethoven's 
powers. It is, therefore, futile to tie down by a 
strict definition the meaning of the word. An 
inexplicable excellence may be of various kinds. 
Automatic acts are more perfectly performed than 
intentional acts. The hand cannot be lifted to 
ward off a blow with such quickness and precision 
as the eyelid is dropped to protect the eye, and the 
author or artist who selects his means automatically 
or naturally makes a better and surer choice than 
he who uses art. Style is therefore a part of genius. 
The bird displays genius in the construction of its 
nest, and the cat when it catches its prey. The 

viii.] ART AND NATURE, 349 

poet or the artist to whose assistance nature has 
come, as it does to the bird or the cat, and who has 
an instinctive facility, may be rightly described as a 
genius. But the skill of irrational animals, which is 
frequently so perfect that it would be called genius, 
if found in a like degree in man, is the accumulated 
product of innumerable acts which have been con- 
tinued through many generations. The second 
nature has been very perfectly formed, because 
such intelligence as these creatures possess has 
been concentrated on these operations. In the 
human race the individual can form his new nature 
more completely than the brutes can, because his 
intelligence is higher, and the sum which, in the one 
case requires many ages, can be added up more 
quickly in the other. But the store of vital energy 
is limited, and a derivation of it in one direction 
implies a deficiency in others. Men of genius are 
noted for a neglect of much which others think 
important, and for eccentricities which seem to be 
allied to madness. They are monomaniacs, and 
"great wits to madness sure are near allied." 
Others have drawn a very different inference, and 
have said that genius is only a name for unusual 
painstaking. This explanation is, however, one 
which has seemed satisfactory rather to those 
mighty men whom posterity have agreed to praise 


than to their disciples and admirers. The former 
have been conscious of their own labour ; others 
have perceived that intentional effort cannot lift all 
to so high a level. There is, perhaps, in scientific 
genius a process which has been called auto- 
matic thought or unconscious cerebration. A long 
period of mental incubation has usually preceded all 
great discoveries. Newton's life presents the most 
famous example. Though discoverers like Newton 
have observed nothing in themselves except unflag- 
ging industry, nature may have lent a helping hand, 
which they did not feel, and mechanical thought 
may have joined with conscious thought to form an 
intuition. Helvetius, however, in the Discaurs de 
VEsprity gravely argued that genius and painstaking 
are one, adding the doctrine that, as a love of fame 
is the most potent of stimulants, genius is ultimately 
excessive vanity. If this theory were true, a re- 
naissance of the Golden Age might be expected, 
and the millennium must be at hand. Warlike 
pursuits no longer absorb the faculties, and the 
deformed thief fashion patronises the arts and 
sciences. Unfortunately for the future the logic of 
facts refutes the theory, and it does not seem likely 
that Raphael or Shakespeare will be cast into the 
shade. Vanity is the most fatal of obstacles to that 
concentration of interest whence springs the true 


labour of genius. The advance of civilisation may 
augment, but does not diminish, the distractions of 
life, and Milton allows that ambition is an infirmity 
of noble mind, though its last infirmity. The true 
man of genius stands in the battlefield of life, as 
Socrates stood at Potidaea, heedless of the tumult 
which surrounds him, or, if he cannot stop his ears, 
cries out with Milton for some high lonely tower 
where he may no longer hear it But high lonely 
towers are odious to the vain man, and' the deformed 
thief ever knocks at the door and summons him to 
come forth. 

All great discoverers and all great artists have 
displayed the bent of their genius in early youth, 
and have either returned to their first love after a 
brief infidelity, or have remained constant through- 
out life. Darwin's great law, to which his attention 
was chiefly turned, and which his learning estab- 
lished, was that accidental variations occur from 
time to time and that the fittest of these survive. 
Ultra-Darwinians have turned this truth into non- 
sense by affirming that circumstances cannot form 
character, which would prove, if it were established, 
that all hope of reclaiming the criminal classes by 
education is vain. Lewes has propounded this para- 
dox in his Life of Goethe, He draws, indeed, a 
distinction between the modification and the develop- 


ment of character ; but it is an empty distinction, and 
all the facts which he adduces refute his contention. 
He fell into a similar error in his History of Philo- 
sophy, Erasmus Darwin in the Zoonomiay first 
offered a philosophical explanation of the charms of 
" the flowing line." He traced it to the feelings of 
an infant at its mother's breast There is, perhaps, 
some truth in this, though, as I have already 
observed, the secret is to be found rather in the 
passions of adults. When Darwin's theory was 
published, Sheridan made the following retort : — ^** I 
suppose that the child brought up by hand would 
feel all those emotions at the sight of a wooden 
spoon." This was very well for Sheridan, who did 
not call himself a savanty and who wrote when it 
was not understood that tastes may be retained and 
accumulated in successive generations. It was, 
moreover, as against Darwin, a valid answer, for the 
latter had divined a truth which could not then be 
theoretically defended. But this smart answer is 
now an anachronism, yet is quoted by Lewes as a 
happy example of the way in which ridicule may 
sometimes be a test of truth. {History of Philosophy ^ 
vol. ii., p. 364.) Lewes leaves himself only one of 
two alternatives ; either that tastes and characters 
are self-created in the first instance, or that they 
have a non-natural origin. The reasonable doctrine 


is that they have all a natural origin, and that the 
tastes and characteristics of races and families are 
formed by the scarcely perceptible increments of 
individuals. Reason and observation unite to prove 
that tastes or preferences may be in part formed in 
early life by circumstances, and that the virgin cask 
will long retain the flavour which it first receives. 
They prove no less that hereditation is a factor, and 
that one kind of wood may be more thoroughly 
imbued than another. It is not always easy to 
decide how much must be attributed to the one, and 
how much to the other cause. In the various 
instances which Mr. Galton has collected of heredi- 
tary capacity and taste, it is impossible to avoid a 
suspicion that traditions of ancestral eminence may 
have given a turn to character in early life, and that 
the traits which reappear are not purely natural. 
Still the presumption is strong that families (in the 
narrower sense of the word) have peculiar character- 
istics as well as races, and that genius, whatever it 
may be, runs in them. The most striking case on 
record is where we might look to find it ; in the 
history of music. The musical genius of the Bach 
family is a unique phenomenon in the history of 
mankind. As it cannot be doubted that there was 
in this family an inherited taste and capacity for 

music, we may infer that if musical taste first arose 

2 A 


in the way which Darwin described, the disappear- 
ance of the original source does not imply that 
musical tastes will be extinguished as time pro- 
gresses. As, moreover, J. Sebastian Bach, though 
less popular than many other composers, has had 
greater influence on style than any other, his genius 
connects Mr. H. Spencer's theory of music with 
Darwin's. The tendency which culminates in 
Wagner's music so to combine concord with discord 
that the orchestra seems almost to utter the cry of 
a passionate animal, was first pronounced in the 
style of Sebastian Bach. Expression of feeling 
became the prominent quality, as the modem cause 
of musical taste triumphed over the ancestral cause. 
How far this tendency may extend, and whether or 
not it has reached its utmost limits, I must leave to 
more competent critics to decide ; but Wagner has 
composed much which suffices to prove that music 
can stand alone, and need not lean on poetry as a 
crutch. As there has been no change in the nature 
of the causation in pictorial tastes, there is no reason 
to suppose that style can advance in this art as in 
musip. Nor is there any evidence that it has 
advanced since the seventeenth century. The judg- 
ment of the multitude is safer, broader, and juster, 
than the verdict of either artists or connoisseurs 
when it is once formed. This is inevitable, for there 


is no appeal from the test ubique et omnibus. The 
fallacy is to argue that the ignorant are the best 
judges in the first instance, on the ground that the 
majprity are always ignorant. The true public 
opinion is that which remains when the momentary 
conflict is over and the fittest has survived. It is 
the opinion which has been cleared of the crotchets 
of the hour, and has become natural or constant. 
But this supreme arbiter which has decided that 
music advances, as all the sciences advance, and has 
refused to listen for ever to the antagonists of 
Handel and of Schumann and of Wagner, has not 
yet pronounced its verdict in the case of pictorial 
art It was at one time almost convinced that a 
new epoch had arrived in landscape painting, and 
that Canaletto, who satisfied an earlier generation, is 
" a little and a bad painter." It now listens once 
more to the mute eloquence of works such as hang 
in our National Gallery, and suspects that this 
decision was hasty. The last word is not yet 
spoken, and public opinion hesitates between the 
views that pictures are painted for the spectator, as 
music is performed for the auditor, or that their 
proper function is to supply a theme for the critic. 
But as fashion is a cyclone and not a steady wind, 
its gales will pass away and artistic opinion will 
prevail. The realistic furor which carried all 


before it twenty or thirty years ago, when it was 
thought that pictures which seemed to be elaborated 
with the point of a pin were the most perfect 
samples of style, was succeeded by an opposite 
exaggeration which has been called impressionism. 
This also has been sometimes called realism, and 
perhaps rightly, for it was a reaction which naturally 
followed the earlier movement Impressionist art is 
the artistic theory formulated and exaggerated, as 
the rules of the academy were formalised last 
century by the connoisseur. The artistic theory is 
that the painter copies confidently the image which 
is formed in his mind. The impressionist artist 
deduces from the fact that this image contains less 
than may be observed in nature, a rule that the 
most perfect work of art is that which contains 
fewest of the details which are observed. The true 
artist ignores rules, but submits first to academic 
practice which forms a second nature. It is pleasant 
for the amateur to think that he has capacities 
which need no training, and he listens willingly to 
the flattering clique which assures him that academic 
rules would only cramp his genius. But the theory 
that academies exist in order to inculcate rules is an 
invention of the connoisseur, and their true end is to 
form artistic facility, leaving taste to form itself. It 
forms itself as all other tastes do, and when the 


artificial nature joins hands with the inherited nature 
it rises to the rank of genius. Nature enters at both 
ends, and, though it is never true that "art is as 
much nature as anything else," it is true that in the 
Fine Arts the two are blended together. The Fine 
Arts owe their mysterious charms to this union. 
They are the wedding of the formed and the 
inherited nature, Shakespeare has written many 
lines which may be applied in various ways, and the 
following are an apt description of the nature of 
the Fine Arts : — 

" One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. 
That all with one consent praise new-bom gawds. 
Though they are made and moulded of things past." 

Works of art are new-bom gawds, and gratify that 
love of novelty which is part of the artificial nature 
formed by the ever-changing conditions of civilised 
life, though they are made and moulded of things 
past. But it would be a . subversion of all known 
principles if the artistic tastes were false. The 
nature of the Fine Arts is an artificial nature, and 
the nature which works of art form must be most in 
harmony with it. If the artistic tastes are evil ; if 
Alison was right when he aflSrmed that artists have 
the strongest propensity and the greatest interest in 
corrupting the arts, or Mr. Ruskin when he said 


that a study of pictures engenders a depravity in 
the human mind, what apolc^y can be offered for a 
Government which supports a national collection, 
and spends money on buying pictures ? The least 
it could do would be to appoint an inspector, chosen 
from " the many who have never handled the 
pencil," to purge our galleries of the rubbish which 
they contain. Such an inspector would easily 
accomplish his task. Artists often hesitate, balanc- 
ing one thing against another, and are so prejudiced 
that they would probably find something to admire 
in every picture which our National Gallery contains. 
But the connoisseur is free from this foible. He 
can discriminate at a glance between the utterly bad 
and the entirely noble, and could summarily decide 
which works ought to be consigned to the lumber- 
room. The Salvator Rosas, the Poussins, the 
Claude Lorrains, the Canaletti, and all which might 
strike him as conventional, or unveracious, or 
classical, or ignoble, swept away, he might turn 
his attention to the Royal Academicians and inspect 
their studios. A salutary rebuke administered in 
time might deter them from an excessive attention 
to the meaner beauty, and stem the torrent of cor- 
ruption. But the truth should be told. It should 
be allowed that the inspector was sent by the 
connoisseur, and it should not be said that his 


warrant was signed by Aristotle and Sir Joshua 
Reynolds. Artistic casuistry is, like moral casuistry, 
an attempt to frame a set of rules which may super- 
sede instinct or feeling, and is, like it, worthless or 
pernicious. The true relation of science to the art 
of painting is that which it holds in the Lectures 
of Professor Helmholtz, who treats the practice of 
illustrious artists as a phenomenon to be explained, 
but does not arrogate to himself the title of censor. 
The science of taste has flourished hitherto, as some 
insects are said to live, by imitating the forms of 
better protected species. Looked at from a distance, 
it seems to be a science, and as the sciences are 
sacred, every one fears to attack it lest he should 
commit sacrilege. But it has no right to the name 
of science. It is a compound of dogmas, moral 
principles, and scientific truths, which may be mixed 
up together, but out of which no science can be 
constructed. It has invaded the. venerable home of 
the Liberal Arts, but it remains to be seen whether 
it will prove itself fit to survive. 


Printed by R. & R. Clark, Edmburgh. 

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